Riots: It's easy – but wrong – to blame police


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The Independent Online

One senior police officer put it like this: "I realise that journalists and politicians are blessed with powers of perfect hindsight but at every stage our response to these riots has been proportionate and appropriate. Frankly, I don't think we could have handled this any better."

This is not a view that would be shared by people who have had their homes and shops looted and burnt. Nonetheless, it is probably true.

The trigger for the first riots last Saturday was the shooting dead by armed officers of a young black man. "Going in hard" risked inflaming tensions, after decades of trying to build better relations. Much better to watch, video and contain than order running battles that would risk lives.

Unfortunately, just as most politicians are away in August so are many police. At a time of significant budget cuts chief police officers took a calculated risk. Did they pay for the overtime, accommodation and transport costs for 2,000 standby officers and then cut funding to community policing to pay for it or work with what they had? It may have been the wrong decision – but it is an understandable one.

The difference between Monday and Tuesday nights was the decision to flood London with officers. It worked – and might have worked sooner. But it's hard to blame the police for this.