Anger and frustration at police drove summer riots

 

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The Independent Online

Deep-seated anger and frustration towards the police was a significant factor behind the August riots, a study into the causes of the unrest has found.

Analysts, who studied 270 interviews with people who took part in the disturbances, said distrust and antipathy towards officers was a key driving force behind why thousands took to the streets.

A complex mix of other political, social and economic grievances also contributed to the unprecedented trouble, according to the research conducted by the London School of Economics (LSE) and The Guardian.

Out of those questioned, 85% said policing was an "important" or "very important" factor in why the riots happened.

It was second only to poverty, which saw 86% of rioters class it as one of the main causes of the four consecutive nights of unrest during the summer.

LSE appointed experts analysed 1.3 million words from first-person accounts of rioters who took part in the disturbances, as part of the project called Reading the Riots.

A database of more than 2.5 million riot-related tweets was also used as part of the unique research.

According to the data, 80% of rioters said government policy was an "important" or "very important" cause of the riots, with unemployment scoring 79%, the shooting of Mark Duggan scoring 75% and social media - which is believed to have helped facilitate the spread of the trouble across the UK's cities - scoring 74%.

Other major factors included media coverage, greed, inequality, boredom, criminality, moral decline and racial tensions, the study found

Poor parenting and gangs were also said to be an important cause of the trouble, which led to the deaths of five people and saw more than 4,000 arrested.

Analysts said the view that the police were "the biggest gang out there" was a reoccurring theme among rioters.

Complaints against officers included claims of incivility during everyday interactions and the carrying out of unnecessary stop and searches. Only 7% said they thought police did a good job in their area.

Some rioters also alleged they had been beaten up inside police vans and "stitched up" over crimes they did not commit.

Two thirds of those interviewed said they had been cautioned by police or convicted of an offence in the past.

The riots broke out in Tottenham, north London, on August 6, following the fatal shooting by police of Mr Duggan, 29. It then spread to other parts of the capital and other English cities including Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester and Salford.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: "The disorder seen in August was unprecedented in its scale of violence and the way in which events escalated rapidly.

"It took people by surprise. Not enough police officers were available initially and it eventually required 16,000 of them to restore order.

"Of course the way in which those events took place and were seen by others through the media had an impact on confidence in the police, and it is important that lessons are learned from all the different processes and reports investigating what happened.

"In a survey of 270 rioters, it would be quite odd if a high proportion did not cite the police as a factor in their behaviour. But August also showed the ability of our police to restore order using robust, common-sense policing in the British way."

PA