Riots: Police defend handling of crisis after criticism


Sir Hugh Orde: "The home secretary has been quite outstanding"

Police chiefs have defended their handling of this week's riots despite criticism from the prime minister.

Association of Chief Police Officers president Sir Hugh Orde rejected suggestions that the restoration of calm was due to political intervention.

Acting Met Police commissioner Tim Godwin said comments were being made by people "who weren't there".

David Cameron said police did make mistakes over numbers and tactics - but also praised the bravery of officers.

Mr Godwin denied police had been too "timid" in their initial response to the riots on Saturday - but he said that "if police officers had the benefit of hindsight as foresight we would obviously do things slightly differently".

Ministers and police chiefs have clashed over who was responsible for bringing about a surge in police numbers on the streets of London from 6,000 on Monday to 16,000 on Tuesday.

Politicians 'irrelevant'

Mr Cameron returned from holiday on Monday night and called an urgent meeting of emergencies committee Cobra.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the prime minister had been "very much in charge" of that meeting.

At the heart of the row is the question of operational independence.

Senior officers value their right to decide tactics without political interference above almost anything else. Set priorities, agree strategy, hold us to account, they say, but don't meddle in what we do on the ground.

The formula works when the going's good - but when it's as tough as it has been this week the tensions between police and politicians are all too evident.

The issue of operational independence has added meaning because the government is pressing ahead with plans for directly-elected officials to oversee police forces in England and Wales. Elections are due to be held next year.

Police are largely against the idea, fearing greater political interference with candidates promising more on policing than can be delivered at a time of budget cuts.

But Sir Hugh - who is seen as a leading contender to become the next Met Police commissioner - told the BBC that the subsequent restoration of calm on Tuesday night had not been down to political intervention.

"The fact that politicians chose to come back [from holiday] is an irrelevance in terms of the tactics that were by then developing," he told BBC Two's Newsnight.

"The more robust policing tactics you saw were not a function of political interference; they were a function of the numbers being available to allow the chief constables to change their tactics."

Senior police sources have told the BBC that plans to increase officer numbers in London were well advanced before the Cobra meeting on Tuesday.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw has learned that Scotland Yard made several calls to the Police National Information Co-ordination Centre on Monday requesting additional support.

Home Secretary Theresa May said she spoke by conference call to all police chiefs on Wednesday and "ordered that all special constables should be mobilised, all police leave should be cancelled and the robust tactics used on Tuesday by the Metropolitan Police adopted by all forces dealing with public disorder".

But Sir Hugh said she had "no power whatsoever" do that - and decisions about staffing were a matter for force commanders.

'Vital distinction'

He later denied there was any rift with the government and said the home secretary had given him "quite outstanding" support.

"She has praised police officers. She understands the complexity of the world in which we live and I think she very clearly understands that we cannot get it right all the time," he said.

"But let's be very clear on one thing - the vital distinction between policing and politics remains. The police service will make the tactical decisions, and quite rightly and robustly, we should and must be held to account [by politicians]."

Richard Mannington Bowes

Mrs May also sought to play down any suggestion that the government's was seeking to take credit for restoring calm, insisting: "What I accept is that the people who got the riots under control were the police."

The prime minister said police chiefs took the decision to increase officer numbers and change tactics, and the Cobra meeting helped commanders "by showing there was political backing for the changes they wanted to make".

But Police Federation vice-chairman Simon Reed said the suggestion that police had changed their approach after the government stepped in was "a cheap shot" - and Sir Hugh was "clearly upset".


"It's a slight on the professionalism of the police service and the rank and file because some of the language, some of the tone used, was that they were too timid - almost that they weren't brave enough.

"Rank and file officers will be very upset about those comments because these were unprecedented levels of violence that we saw."

Ian Hanson, chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Federation, also said it was "disingenuous of politicians to say that they [had] sorted the problems out".

Labour have said the riots show that planned cuts to police budgets - and in turn, officer numbers - should be abandoned.

Shadow Home Office minister Vernon Coaker told the BBC the government should be given the same sort of protection from spending cuts as the health and education sectors.

And he accused David Cameron and Theresa May of "playing politics" with policing and trying to "take the credit for tough and correct action taken by the police while at the same time trying to pass the buck for any criticisms back to them".

The Police Federation said that if the riots had happened in a year's time - with "10 or 12,000 fewer officers" - police would not have been able to mobilise resources in the way they have done this week.

But during Thursday's debate, the prime minister insisted the cuts were "totally achievable" without any reduction in the visible policing presence and said that a "surge" of officers - as seen in recent days - would still be possible in future.

In other developments:


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  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    I don't condone rioting. But it now appears, the Police too broke the law by shooting dead an apparently innocent man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.


    @744. Richard -- I hope things are improving. What you experienced sounds awful."

    Thank you, it's not been a barrel of laughs but I've learned to accept life as it is. I have also leaned a lot about people (particularly 'friends'), and a lot about how the country really works. I've also learned that those who think "it'll never happen to me" shouldn't be so certain about that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    So Mark Duggan didn't fire at Police before he was shot dead, official.
    So why then was he not arrested if he had committed a crime instead of being shot? And how come a bullet from the Police Ammo was found lodged in their own weapon?

    The mystery thickens. Statements were apparently a cover-up. Its reminescent of the de Menzes and Tomlinson killings all over again.
    Will they ever learn??

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    Germany lacks ROYAL GLAMOUR -
    Come on -

    The decisive social questions of today:

    GET OVER THESE MAD RIOTS - that dress - How will the bride look like? - What will be the dress colour?
    How is David and his spice girl made up for THAT wedding?


  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    "I only tell the truth"
    Not really. It took at several posts to get you to admit a comment I thought sounded anti-Semitic actually was about Jews. I would not call you the paragon of personal honesty.

    You, however, call me inanities like "Comrade Phosgene (Chief Constable of the internet police)". Very adult!

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.


    So tell me please people, why it is OK to fight riots in GB? and it is not Ok to do so in Syria?
    Eventhough they did worse than that in Syria, they killed the army forces they burned all the government institution, they even bombed the train station,,,,, and bombed the oil pipes
    Please answer me!!!"

    At a guess, foreign troops, ships or aircraft would make Israel very nervous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    771. JockTheRipper
    "@ Comrade Phosgene (Chief Constable of the internet police)
    Post #749 was the latest post in which you referred to yourself as 'we'"
    No; you actually trying to be rude -- you're just not doing a very good job!

    The "we" refers to everone capable of reading for meaning. It's not a "royal" we. You should think about how what you write will be understood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    742. Frank Kirkton
    JTURNER@612.Not so. Tbone stated that he/she" dealt with societies scum" .Therefore my post was accurate.

    Most the the tripe removed. Don't play silly ass with words, your basically a bitter Tony Bliar type. Away with you and give your right hand a rest. Yes I'm being judgmental.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    In my lifetime I have had a few encounters with some very rich people and some have a guilt complex about the wealth divide in this country. So much so that they bequeath much of their vast wealth to charities in the hope of a peerage in this life and the possibility salvation in the next. You have to ask why they perhaps short changed their workforce and kept the lion's share for themselves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    Let´s watch the STYLISH Royal wedding

    Forget the battlefield of Tottenham

    Escape from reality - nice horses, hats and so on

    Wonderful to watch!

    Forget street gangs, antisocial realities!


  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    So tell me please people, why it is OK to fight riots in GB? and it is not Ok to do so in Syria?
    Eventhough they did worse than that in Syria, they killed the army forces they burned all the government institution, they even bombed the train station,,,,, and bombed the oil pipes
    Please answer me!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    @ Comrade Phosgene (Chief Constable of the internet police)

    Post #749 was the latest post in which you referred to yourself as 'we'. I can't be bothered going through your other posts. Most of them have been removed due to their racist left wing views. If you want to improve your derisory literacy skills, you could perhaps check them out yourself.

    I'm not insulting you. I only tell the truth!

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    Someone really is a sad case and voted this down:
    @744. Richard -- I hope things are improving. What you experienced sounds awful."

    Are you just sore at me or someone who hates Richard? Try telling me you *don't* have a problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    "Billy The Bull" 758

    I'm afraid I threat them all with equal contempt, and await the arrival of the 'None Of The Above' box to tick. On the EU I believe the UK is too small an economy to survive on it's own and would far rather we throw our lot in with them than failed state, with all it's social injustices, that is the US. I know I'm probably in a minority of one there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    And we musrt end this benefits culture that turns young people into parasites. Work or starve should be our cry

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    Rock on phossy. Thats a blinder of a word.
    Wossit mean

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    We need to return to a more muscular society which will not tolerate the anti social behaviour of these louts, or their parents.

    The trouble is that we have been over run by slack jawed degenerates from the left whose political correctness stifles any attempt at enforcing proper standards of behaviour

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    Latest Guardian % of ages of looters --

    11 - 17 years....19.6%
    18 - 24 years....53.3%
    25 - 30 years....10.2%
    31 - 40 years.... 9.4%
    41 and over ......7.5%

    These figures are close to Ministry of Justice figures stating 83% of those being prosecuted are adults ( 18 year and above).
    Make of them what you will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    Come on, watch a sample of
    #THE VERY BEST of Royal weddings

    and get over it

    Escape from reality - watch fine dresses, romantic engagements.


  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    John Campbell 751
    You are so right about the "Not me Guv" approach from most of our politicians when confronted with a problem of their making. Labour presided over an unsustainable period of reckless banking and ridiculous personal debt which they tried to pretend was steady GROWTH in the U.K. economy. Now the CON/Dems are hell bent on "killer cuts" which won't solve anything - just watch!


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