CS gas use 'could tackle rioters' - Met police review

Riot police face a mob in Hackney, north London on 8 August, 2011 CS gas use could be used as a "last resort" tactic, the report suggests

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Using CS gas to disperse troublemakers during outbreaks of disorder is to be considered by the Metropolitan Police.

A Scotland Yard review into last summer's riots, entitled Four Days in August, says the Met is developing more "assertive tactics" to tackle disorder.

Some people felt police failed to help them or prevent properties being destroyed, the review acknowledges.

The force is already considering buying water cannon, while baton rounds are being made more readily available.

The review says the perceived police failings were largely down to not having enough officers on the ground. However, it acknowledges that more "flexible and dynamic" policing methods are needed.

'Damage confidence'

It said the Met was reviewing tactics that are currently recognised by the Association of Chief Police Officers but "are not currently within its scope of options".

Among them, it describes the use of CS smoke as a recognised "last resort" tactic to disperse groups during serious disorder.

The gas is normally released from a grenade and is similar to tear gas.

CS smoke was used for the first time in Britain during riots in Toxteth, Liverpool in 1981.

But it is not part of public order policing situations and has "limitations" including the risk to innocent people, the report says.

It could also alter the mood of the crowd and damage community confidence, the review suggests.

Water cannon have been used in Northern Ireland but never in Britain and the review suggests it is "widely recognised as an effective tactic to disperse and distance aggressors".

'Political decision'

It suggests they could have been successfully deployed on occasions including when trouble flared outside the Israeli Embassy in 2008 and 2009, and during the 2010 student protests.

However, at present, the Met relies on an agreement with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to have the resource available for use at 24 hours' notice.

The force is in discussions regarding the potential purchase of water cannon vehicles - at a cost of about £1m - to be based regionally in England and Wales and awaits the publication of Association of Chief Police Officers guidelines on the issue next year.

However, Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has expressed doubts about their effectiveness and said their use must be a political decision.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    I'm not too sure about the use of CS spray at all, the image of that American policeman casually spraying the faces of peaceful protestors that were actually sitting down and causing no violence stayed in my memory and disgusted me, i never want to see that type of abuse on the streets of Britain.

    If it is used, how can we make sure it is turned only on violent people and not peaceful protestors?

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    Its about time the British Police moved into the 21st Century and became more proactive in times of riot etc. This will protect the Officers and the rioters, if it stings a bit then tough! This silly Dixon of Dock Green, softly softly approach does NOT work any more. We should not be concerned about rioters welfare, they are breaking the law and ruining the peace, end of!

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.


    Who decides what constitutes disorder, I wonder?

    That’s the problem with using these tack-ticks. I worry that peaceful protests (that may be targeted by the professional demonstrators) would be victims of this, which will ultimately halt legal demonstrations. Scary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    You'd think the police had never had to quell a riot before. Is the Met so hamstrung by health & safety fears that it has forgotten how to do its job?

    The globally accepted anti-riot response comprises the following toolkit: helicopter surveillance, command & control; mounted police on horseback; armoured police on foot gear; water cannon; baton rounds; CS gas; tasers.

    That was easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    When i lived in the states people didnt mess with the police. We were afraid of the police in fact. Im not saying thats a great existence or solution but the problem in the UK is people have absolutely no respect for the police and that stinks! Have u seen the way revellers in city centres on weekends speak to the police here. Society has degenerated horrendously!


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