Police could open fire on rioters who threaten lives, say inspectors

MPs said the use of water cannon and baton rounds would only have inflamed the situation

Police officers could open fire on arsonists targeting shops and offices during future riots if there were a risk of someone getting killed in nearby homes, a review of police tactics used during the August disturbances has found.

Inspectors concluded that police commanders "must be equipped to respond with extraordinary measures" when life was threatened after an investigation found that officers held back from tackling rioters because of concerns they could be breaking the law.

Water cannon could also be used to drive back missile-throwing protesters and plastic bullets fired to protect ambulance and firefighters, according to legal advice prepared for the report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

The two tactics have never before been used in mainland public-order policing. The finding comes after MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said yesterday that it would have been inappropriate and dangerous to use water cannon and baton rounds because it could have inflamed the situation further.

Sir Denis O'Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, highlighted the case of Monika Konczyk, a Polish woman who was forced to jump out of a building in Croydon torched by rioters. "Some new rules of engagement are necessary so the police can protect the public in confidence," he said.

The report found that the police were not prepared for the fast-moving riots sparked by the shooting by police of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, north London, on 4 August. The report found authorities had failed to challenge rumours that Mr Duggan had been "executed" by police until rioting was well under way.

It said that some forces ran out of round shields, needed by officers to push back rioters, and there were cases of substandard equipment including vehicles not fitted with steel grilles and reinforced glass. It also found that it was impossible to make arrests in some circumstances because there were too few officers on the streets. The report called for clear rules of engagement for officers to tackle rioters but also maintain the support of the public.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, questioned the effect of using firearms during riots. "How on earth would bullets have quelled this summer's riots? Didn't the widespread disorder all begin in Tottenham with a fatal police shooting?"

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific