Archive for August, 2012

The lion’s roar…

Some say there’s a lion of the loose in Essex – what’s the law got to say about loose beasts? (Image from Twitter)

As we all know, a lion is definitely on the loose in Essex. How do we know this? Well, from a distance someone saw a ‘large cat’ and to back up the theory that it must have been a lion, another resident heard a ‘loud roar’.

But this strong evidence together and you’ve got a lion on your hands, Essex Police.

Now, whilst there’s no suggestion at all that the lion might be heading towards the West Midlands, at the same time it won’t hurt anybody to be prepared should it step off a train at New Street.

Keeping up with the law theme of this blog then, here are a few lion related offences that you’ll want to bring yourself up to speed on, alongside some practical tips to follow in these lion-troubled times.

Starting with the criminal law side, here are the main ones -

S. 45 of the Protection From Harassment (Lions) Act 1966 – This makes it an offence for a lion to act in such a way so to cause any person within a five mile radius to feel harassment, alarm or distress as a result of a particularly loud roar or fierce baring of teeth.

S. 1 of the Zoos (Lions) Act 1981 – One of the most important lion laws on the statute books, this makes it illegal for a lawfully detained lion to escape, or attempt to escape, its enclosure. It also makes it an offence to harbor an escaped lion.

S. 78 & 79 of the Lions on Public Transport (Amendment) Act 1993 – Relevant to the use of public transport by loose zoo animals, this nifty bit of legislation makes it a crime for a lion or other ‘animal that would usually find residence in a zoo’ to board any form of public transport without a valid ticket.

Section 79(1) of the same Act dictates that a large animal (boar or larger) must buy tickets for two adjoining seats, so if you’re a ticket inspector on the West Coast Mainline then look out for this one.

The Prevention of the Disguise of Common Beasts Act 1763 – An old one but still applicable today, this law states that it is illegal for any person to attempt to pass a lion off as a human by putting on it makeup, clothes, hats, wigs, shoes, or any other ‘article of mankind’.

So those are the main laws that the cops in Essex will be looking to apply. All carry the power of arrest so if/when this furry fugitive is apprehended, they’ll throw him or her into the largest caged van they’ve got and transport back to the station for an interview.

What should you do if worst comes to worst though and you find yourself face to face with the Essex Lion?

If you’ve seen the Wizard of Oz, you’ll already know that as fierce as the lion might look, it’s actually more scared of you than you are of it. Yes it may be circling you and showing you row after row of sharp teeth but ignore this – it’s just a show. Inside it’ll be trembling.

Stay calm and don’t panic. Presumably you’ll be carrying a whip and a chair so it’ll not take many cracks of the whip before the lion is sent running off into the distance with its tail between its legs.

Alternatively you could do what we do every time there are reports in the paper that there’s a big cat on the loose on Cannock Chase – take them with a rather large pinch of catnip.

There could be a lion on the loose in Essex, the police probably wouldn’t have sent their helicopter and armed response units searching if they disbelieved it entirely.

At the same time it definitely is your Bank Holiday so if I were you I’d make the most of it and go on safari!

28/08/2012 – As of yesterday afternoon Essex Police called off their search, no doubt because they had extinguished all lions of enquiry. I’ve been thinking though, maybe the eyewitnesses mistook the lion for the tiger that definitely wasn’t let out from London Zoo during last year’s riots? Just a thought…

Fix up, look sharp…

We all knew this fantastic summer couldn’t last forever but is your automobile ready for the Winter months?

As I’d tweeted the other day, I was busily driving my police car through Bloxwich when the car in front of me decided to stop.

This would have been fine were it not for the fact that I found it very hard to tell it was stopping as one of the car’s brake lights was out. We didn’t collide but all too easily we could have done.

Keeping your car well maintained is a good idea all year round but with another dreamy British Summertime drawing to a close, now is a great time to spend a few minutes with your motor doing some basic checks to ensure you are set for the darker months.

These checks aren’t hard, require no real mechanical know how (trust me – even I can do them) and shouldn’t even give you cause to get your hands dirty. They take no time at all and could save you a costly insurance claim further down the road.

Ranked in no particular order then, here are some of the key checks you’re going to want to do:

  • Lights – Come mist, heavy rain or, traditionally, night time, there’s no thing better to ensure that you can be seen than lights. Check yours are working by walking around your car and either get a friend to check the brake lights or construct some intricate mirror system to check them on your own. Changing bulbs is easy and inexpensive, the car’s manual will tell you how or get a mechanic to light the way for you.
  • Tyres – Commonly used to connect the car with the road, real issues present themselves when tyres become balder than Patrick Stewart. Look in the grooves of your tyres for the little raised notches – these are tread depth indicators and if your tyres are worn to the same level as the notches they need changing. Make sure there aren’t any cuts or bulges in the tyre and use a gauge at the petrol station to check they’re at the correct pressure.
  • Engine Oil – With your car engine cold and on level ground, wipe the dipstick clean and plunge it back into the engine before wiping again. The oil level should be between the two notches on the dipstick, if it’s too low then you’ll need to top it up.
  • Coolant – Not just important during the warmer months, good coolant mixed with antifreeze means that your engine won’t overheat and pack up at precisely the time you don’t want it to – when you’re dressed as one half of a pantomime horse and in the middle of the Peak District on your way to a party.
  • Wiper fluid/wipers – It may well rain once or twice over the coming months so you’ll need your wipers in working condition so that you can see where you’re heading and thus not crash into a ravine. If your wiper blades are only half bothered about clearing the water from your windscreen, change them. Top the screen wash up too as with rain comes grime.
  • Polos – I know this is traditionally seen as a job best saved for the garage but maintaining your Polo stock isn’t as daunting as it may seem. They are readily available from many supermarkets and assuming that you are confident that you can open the pack and place one of the circular mints into your mouth, you need not fear hunger on a long Autumnal drive up to Leeds to see your aunt.

For more information on maintaining your car, both the AA and RAC offer dedicated sections on their websites offering advice.

I’m sure you’ll agree that August is too early to mention the ‘snow’ word however as it’s almost guaranteed to snow in September, take a look at my blog post from last year on driving in the white stuff.

Happy travels!

Why can’t you be nicer to me?

One of the few areas of difference between me and Batman is our treatment of prisoners. How would you expect police to treat suspects though? (Image from Warner Brothers)

“You don’t want to make him angry, I can’t control him when he gets angry”.

Okay, I’d not said those exact words but at some point during a recent prisoner interview our suspect, somewhat annoyed at having to answer questions about his arrest, asked me and my partner if we were doing the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine.

As I hope you’d have already guessed, I was accused of being the ‘good’ cop and whilst we were doing nothing of the sort, it did get me thinking just how should someone be treated post arrest?

During training we’re taught how best to structure interviews. We get shown how the tapes work, which forms we need to fill in and how to plan our interviews to get the most desirable result.

Whilst movies might suggest otherwise, we’re not taught how to ‘break a suspect down’, nor do we rip off our warrant cards, turn off the tapes and yell “It’s just you and me now, buddy!” in the hope that we’ll get a confession.

The key word is ‘interview’ – not interrogation.

Judging how best to deal with suspects post-arrest though can be very tricky – how would you expect, or indeed hope, that someone arrested for, say, pedophilia or murder, might be dealt with by police?

Would you feel comfortable with the use of the word ‘sir’ whilst the handcuffs go on? Some people may well hope that the same handcuffs are applied a little too tightly and heads ‘accidentally’ bump into car doors on the way back to the station.

It’s important to realise though that letting emotions take over in no way helps the investigation and furthermore that it’s the courts, not the police, that are responsible for deciding guilt and punishment.

This is where the job can get very difficult – how can officers maintain their professionalism when interviewing a suspect who they’ve witnessed an hour earlier viciously attacking someone outside a nightclub?

You can’t deny that the temptation might exist to bang fists on tables and start reenacting scenes from LA Confidential but when set against the wider scope of the investigation, allowing emotions to take over clearly wouldn’t help and this is why it doesn’t happen.

Arrests commonly take place so that we can interview suspects on tape – as guilty as they may appear it’s our job to gather all available evidence. When it comes to obtaining an account, winding up our suspect by claiming that their co accused has been ‘singing like a canary’ hardly helps.

Rather, in the long run dealing with prisoners with a little common courtesy, however ill deserved it may appear, is far more rewarding than any short term satisfaction that may come with rudeness.

For me this translates as an offer of a drink (hot chocolate with four sugars) when a suspect reaches the cell, an extra blanket or even one of Walsall Police Station’s famous ‘All Day Breakfasts’.

It’s no comment on us being ‘soft’ on suspects, rather it shows that we want to be in the best possible position to obtain the evidence that we need to prove – or disprove – someone’s guilt.

We’re all good cops, or at least we try the best we can – there’s no reason not to be.

We’ve got a file on you…

The New Tricks team specialise in investigating ‘filed’ crime reports but how do some reports become filed as soon as they’re reported to us? (Image from BBC)

Are all crimes reported to the police fully investigated? You may think yes, the magnifying glass comes out on every occasion, but as this recent story about one force ‘shelving’ 40% of their crime reports over the last financial year shows, some crimes are in fact filed without further investigation.

Initially this may seem a slightly odd thing to do. If you’d reported being a victim of crime to the police, wouldn’t the least you expect be that they’d investigate it?

Whilst at first thought that indeed seems a reasonable expectation, as the above quoted figure suggests, a proportion of reported crimes are in fact filed at source.

Why is this the case though? Don’t police officers want to solve crimes? Isn’t that their job?

Well, of course it is down to us to solve crimes. It’s our job to identify offenders and ensure that by the end of our investigation they’re sitting in the rear of the prison van wearing stripey pajamas and thinking very hard about what they’ve done.

Our ability to detect crimes though, their ‘solavability’, often depends on the initial circumstances under which the crime has taken place and whilst the point of initial investigations is to help generate leads and identify evidence, it is not uncommon for there to be so little to go on that the investigation stalls before it even gets started.

Take a bike stolen overnight from a public park as an example. Quite why it was there I can’t tell you but in the morning the bike’s owner returns to the spot where he thought he’d left it. It’s not there. It definitely was there but now it’s not. Some miscreant appears to have stolen it.

Wanting to report the loss, the ex-cyclist calls his local force on their conveniently easy to remember non-emergency number, 101, and lets the operator know what has happened.

If the offence has taken place in the West Midlands, the operator taking the call will likely run through something we call the ‘solvability matrix’. Questions will be asked about the offence location, whether there are any visible CCTV cameras, any identifiable witnesses, whether the bike was unique in any way and at the end of the call makes a decision on whether to ‘file’ the crime report or to allocate it for further investigation.

There wasn’t any CCTV in this example, no witnesses, the bike wasn’t unique and there aren’t any forensics opportunities as the ‘scene’ is nothing more than an empty space once containing a bike, the probable outcome will be that the crime report will be filed there and then.

A secondary investigation won’t take place simply because without any identifiable leads, the investigation can go no further.

This isn’t to say that the matter is left here mind. A crime number can still be issued so that an insurance claim can be made, a referral will be made too onto Victim Support who can provide further assistance.

Furthermore, a ‘filed’ crime report can be reopened at any time – anyone who’s seen New Tricks will know this – and if further leads emerge justifying further investigation emerge then that’s just what will happen.

Likewise it’s not uncommon for criminals caught for other matters will choose to admit to past crimes for which they were never caught – to have their past offences ‘taken into consideration‘.

The idea behind doing so is that by admitting guilt before they get found out, a judge may pass a lesser sentence to reward their ‘honesty’. The victim benefits when this happens as they finally get a little closure.

The threshold for when an investigation will be filed depends on a range of factors, particularly the severity of the offence itself. Proportionate investigation is the key here.

This means that for a major investigation – a murder for example – extensive house to house, media appeals, reconstructions and a range of other tools will be employed to ensure that momentum is maintained.

At the other opposite end of proportionate investigation, and here we return to the stolen bicycle, it’s clearly not a realistic proposition to routinely deploy such methods to identify an offender. Not only this, the constant clatter of police helicopter blades overhead each time a bicycle is stolen may well annoy people after a short while!

Of course, that an investigation is filed at source is no comment on the value of the loss to the victim, nor on our attitude towards the fact that a crime has taken place.

It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that to the victim, the crime is the most significant thing that’s happened to them and as such they need to be treated accordingly.

It’s also important not to give the impression that if it appears to you, having discovered that you’ve been a victim of crime and to you it doesn’t appear it’s likely the police will be able to identify an offender, that it’s not worth letting us know.

For a range of important reasons it very much is.

First of all, we need to know what’s happening in your local area. Even if a report does get filed at source, the information that a crime has taken place at all is valuable to us. It helps us build up a picture and make decisions about how we can respond.

Secondly, the people who take the reports, be they the call operator, a PCSO or police officer, know best when a crime is likely to be able to be progressed or not. Whilst you may think that hope is lost, an experienced police officer may be able to point you towards sources of evidence you’d not considered.

Thirdly, if crimes aren’t reported to us and later someone decides to admit them, it can be very hard to identify the victims. If they’re on the system and some hoodlum admits nicking a bike in so and so park on so and so date, a quick search can locate the victim, allow us to contact them and maybe even arrange for the bike to be returned.

Filing crime reports at source is never ideal and I know that it’s the last thing officers want to see happen.

I remember myself precariously clambering onto a school roof (I’m scared of heights/falling off roofs) because the caretaker had suggested there might be a footprint up there, I did so because I didn’t want the crime report filed and know other officers would do the same.

Unfortunately owing to circumstances some reports will always be filed and it’s important to understand why this is.

It’s no comment on how we view the crime itself and if you’ve reported something to us and are unsure why it’s been filed, please ask. We’ll be happy to explain.

You are gold! Always believe in yourself!

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Met Police Commander Bob Broadhurst had said in his futuristic video briefing that the security operation surrounding the Olympic Games was to be the ‘largest peacetime deployment of police the country has ever seen’.

As one of the thousands of officers from around the country deployed to the games, did it live up to the hype?

Like I’d written before, I’d jumped at the chance to get involved with the Olympics and had been looking forward to going ever since our planning department had confirmed I’d been picked.

I’m happy to report that the experience itself itself exceeded all expectations.

My deployment lasted over a ten day period, starting off on Thursday the 26th of July with around sixty of us meeting in Birmingham to load onto a series of coaches.

At the pick up point a theme started that would continue over the course of the trip – being presented with food at every turn. Eating is something I’m pretty enthusiastic about so I had no issues with this and plunged into the sandwich bag with a true Olympic spirit.

Our officers were spread across university halls around the capital with my ‘serial’ – six officers and a sergeant – heading off to the Brunel University campus in Uxbridge, West of London not far from Heathrow.

Everything ran smoothly, we unloaded our huge baggage train and went off for a briefing with the Metropolitan Police who helped orientate us and brought us up to speed on the local lingo; ‘apples and pears’ apparently meaning ‘stairs’ and ‘Gregory Peck’ standing in for ‘cheque’.

Day one of the deployment proper had us up early and on a coach to one of the Met’s huge mustering points which they’d constructed at the the base of Battersea Power Station.

Like an incredibly well policed miniature city, the mustering point had all the facilities required for us to park up our vehicles, eat, collect radios and then receive our daily briefing.

It was only once we arrived at the mustering point that we got an idea of the scale of the operation – sat in the canteen were officers from every single force and parked outside were vehicles baring a huge variety of crests. Everyone was wearing slightly different uniforms, including one force who had stab vests apparently disguised to look like a jumper an elderly teacher might wear, but I think everyone was excited about being there.

As I’d said, eating was indeed a big part of the trip and I felt the Met did an excellent job in ensuring we could fill out our stab vests. The catering staff remained cheerful despite the never ending parade of hungry bobbies and the food wasn’t bad either.

Assigned to help out with the torch relay with the flame being brought down the Thames by barge, we then made our way to Westminster Bridge for a spot of foot patrol.

Perhaps having your photo taken by tourists gets a little tiring after a while but it was a novelty for us and so we spent a very enjoyable few hours chatting to the tourists and giving some rather ‘approximate’ directions before seeing the flotilla arrive and pass under us on its trip towards Tower Bridge.

Saturday was a day off with me taking the chance to see the end of the men’s road cycling by Buckingham Palace, Sunday then saw us start doing what we’d be tasked with for the bulk of our time in London – helping guard Team USA at their London training facility.

As always we started off with a generous breakfast at Brunel and then, probably not more than two hours later, arrived at the muster point in Wanstead for lunch before heading off to the Docklands where Team USA had taken over the University of East London campus.

It was our job to man the checkpoints around the perimeter and whilst it wasn’t particularly busy, I think it was quite a good posting.

Situated across the dock from London City Airport we could watch the planes land and gaze at the cruise ships docked down the quayside that the IOC had hired as accommodation for their staff.

Over the course of the week we found ourselves chatting to several of the Team USA staff who without exception were incredibly friendly and polite. I saw a few of the wrestlers, boxers, spoke to the shot put coach for a while and saw their entire basketball team trying to squeeze into a coach.

The highlight though was, without doubt, the catering. I know it sounds like the main thing I took away from the deployment was a little extra weight (partially true) but Team USA had taken over the canteen and granted us officers free access to it – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so well and if anyone from Team USA is reading this, a big thank you to you all – every officer I spoke to was grateful for the grub!

Another highlight was getting to work with the Met officers, most of whom who were from Romford, who had been sent to help us out. I found it really interesting to exchange different views about the job and I had a great time exchanging police slang with them, learning slowly that ‘skipper’ was their word for sergeant and ‘guv’nor’ their equivalent of ‘gaffa’ or ‘boss’. They did a great job penetrating our thick Walsall accents too.

The final day of the deployment, Friday the 3rd, had us doing something slightly different as rather than heading to UEL, we instead went out to Wimbledon where the semi-finals of the men’s tennis were being held that afternoon.

Having spent a year living just down the road in Putney, I’d never actually been to Wimbledon but found it to be a lovely area and we had a great time standing outside Southfields Underground Station pointing people in the direction of the stadium.

When I signed up for the Olympics I wasn’t too sure how close I’d get to any of the venues but for our evening meal we got to go to the Wimbledon staff canteen, directly under Centre Court, and then wonder around the grounds which was a true privilege.

We saw Henman Hill/Murray Mound, watched a bit of the Murray match on the screens and posed for a few photos with the crowd before returning to the tube station to help direct the crowds back home.

Saturday was dedicated to traveling back to the West Midlands and it felt odd to be leaving, especially as having been so busy I think we all had the impression that we’d been in London for a lot longer than ten days. The shifts had been long – a good twelve hours a day – but enjoyable too so I didn’t hear anyone complaining.

Being down in London for the Olympics had been a superb experience and one of the most rewarding our my career so far.

The Met, both in their organisation and the officers themselves, showed themselves to be very hospitable and we mutual aid officers were well looked after by them.

There was a perceptible buzz around the Olympics whilst we were there, there were the funnily dressed Games Makers everywhere, the public were evidently caught up in the Olympic spirit and this made the games a true pleasure to police.

Keeping up to date with Team GB’s progress was a little difficult with our shifts but as the deployment progressed the growing medal haul suggested this Olympics would be a truly memorable one for British sport.

So it was for British policing.

For more photos from the deployment, please check out the gallery over on Facebook!

You can’t stop clicking at me, writing ’bout me, tweeting ’bout me, I can’t stop, it’s what it gonna be…

Robin Hood Airport – still standing after a frustrated passenger jokingly stated he would ‘blow it sky high’. How should the police best approach complaints involving social media?

Within the past few weeks there have been several high profile examples of people using social media in such a way that they’ve either ended up under police investigation or in court explaining themselves.

The most recent came last week with a Twitter user, Rileyy_69, earning widespread condemnation after ‘trolling’ diver Tom Daley’s account, sending a series of abusive, insensitive messages. The owner of the account was subsequently arrested and issued a warning by police.

Prior to this an appeal was successful by Paul Chambers who had jokingly ‘threatened’ to blow up Robin Hood Airport after he found the airport closed.

Accused of sending a menacing communication, an appeal against his conviction, supported by several well known comedians, saw the conviction overturned with the judge accepting that the tweet was more an ill advised joke than a malicious threat.

In light of cases such as these, the ACPO lead for e-crime, Chief Constable Stuart Hyde, had denied that there was a need to review laws in relation to online communications after some had stated they were outdated and no longer suited to addressing issues on Facebook, Twitter and other sites that did not exist at the time the laws were written.

I too think that current laws provide sufficient tools for us to deal with any serious issues that arise from people misusing social media and would also add that a little common sense and understanding on behalf of those dealing with reports of ‘Facebook harassment’ and the like goes a long way to stopping issues at their source in a proportionate manner.

Take reported issues on Facebook and Twitter as an example – many officers shudder when they see the word ‘Facebook’ written on an incident log because more often than not the job involves tit and tat exchanges between two parties.

What’s the most sensible resolution in circumstances such as these? Launch a police investigation that could costs thousands of pounds?

Far better, where appropriate, to advise the caller to simply hit the ‘block’ button and cut the problem off at the source. Report the offending account to Facebook too and if they need to they have the power to suspend or delete it.

Considering the number of social media users and the frequency with which reports about sites’ misuse is brought to our attention, we have a responsibility to make sure that we’re making the very best use of our limited resources – chasing up each and every report of ‘mean messages’ I don’t think represents the best use of these resources.

Rather, trying to do so takes officers away from the urgent 999 calls – the ones where people are in danger and need officers there straight away.

Further to this, the internet is a forum in which for whatever reason some people feel they can say things from behind a veil of anonymity that they’d unlikely say elsewhere.

Take arguments that take place under YouTube videos as an example – see how long it takes before the Nazi comparisons begin and then consider that this is the kind of context against which insults are sometimes traded across the net.

Set against this background, investigators need to consider where the line ought to be drawn between messages that are offensive – sometime grossly so – and those that cross the line so that they become illegal.

Facebook attracted controversy not too long ago when it declined to take down groups in which people posted jokes about rape – the question appeared to be one about taste rather than law and the position adopted suggested that the jokes were no doubt offensive, but that they weren’t illegal or against the site’s terms and conditions.

This is not to say though that social media can’t be used to commit substantive offences – it can and when it does happen one issue is that it can be hard to trace the identities of the account holders.

A serious threat to kill made across Twitter illustrates the problem sometimes faced – if the information needed to identify a user is not held in their profile or cannot be obtained through the content of their tweets there is a risk that the investigation will run short of leads.

Social media sites can and do help us with investigations, we have a dedicated point of contact through which we can obtain information, however again when a site only requires an email address and a name to set up an account, both of which could well be false, we only have limited information to work with.

This is one reason why, as CC Hyde suggested, the sites themselves have a responsibility to address problems themselves as they can be in a better position than we are to do so, especially when launching a full blown police investigation is not an appropriate course of action.

As a keen user of social media myself and having seen the benefits of being able to communicate directly with the public, I certainly don’t want to give the impression that the medium is causing more troubles than it’s worth.

The vast majority of account holders make good use of their accounts and at the end of the day, social media is just another form of communication, not significantly different from writing something on a message board, blog or in a text message.

When issues arise though, the response ought to be proportionate and made with an understanding of how social media is commonly used and what can be done to solve problems short of investigating every report.

Social media is a good thing – it’ll only strengthen and expand as time passes.

We need to strengthen our understanding of it and in doing so, we’ll strengthen our position to respond.

For more information on how to report issues directly to social media sites, check out the following links -

One time and one time only…

A year on from the August Riots the canteen at the station is a much more peaceful place – what perspective has the year put on the disorders though?

A year ago this week officers from Walsall, from Birmingham, London and across the country found themselves in the midst of some of the worst rioting seen in England for years.

The destruction seemed wholesale, the rioters shockingly ambitious and at the same time random in their choice of victims. Images of police lines stretched across a blazing skyline shot across the world, leaving in their wake tough questions about how the riots had come to be.

Writing now, a year on, it’s hard to believe that a year has passed since those three days in August.

Repairs to the stricken areas continue, buildings have been torn down and the empty gaps they’ve left stand as a stark reminder of what can happen when the perception spreads that law and order has broken down.

I can’t claim to have played a particularly important role in the riots myself. I wasn’t one of the officers charging past broken shops near the Bullring, nor was I stood watching the Carpetright shop engulfed by a firestorm in Haringey.

Instead I was one of the many officers working extended shifts to restore the impression that the law still stood, that those who had come to riot would face the consequences and that the public ought not be panicked by what they saw each night on the news.

Looking back, what stood out to me at the time and what still stands today is the impression that whilst the rioters seemed to enjoy a fleeting taste of the upper hand, the police and other emergency services reacted and adapted with a professionalism that was nothing short of inspiring.

Rest days were cancelled, officers found themselves in unfamiliar situations and faced people on the streets who appeared set upon harming them by any means possible.

Faced with such apparent hatred the officers I worked alongside didn’t buckle, didn’t hesitate – instead they volunteered to work on, shift after shift in unimaginable situations and without a word of complaint.

To me the riots were particularly disturbing owing to the suddenness with which they took hold.

Riots, I’d always thought, would be prefaced by a period of visible tension, by rising discontent leading to a tipping point at which tensions boiled over and barricades sprung up.

A great deal of work has been done investigating the cause of the riots, notably through the Guardian and LSE’s collaborative project Reading The Riots, with various reasons raised by the rioters themselves in attempts to explain why they had taken to the streets.

Frustration at the use of Stop & Search powers in some areas has been floated as one reason and as a contributor; an argument could be made that these frustrations represent the preface I’d have expected with shooting of Mark Duggan representing the tipping point.

Sensible use of stop powers allied with better communication with the affected communities seem to be the way forward to address perceptions of frustration, and indeed forces across the country have already done a great deal of work to bridge divides.

Other explanations have looked towards gangs, social media and simple opportunism, the latter of which I think seems the most convincing explanation for why people, sometimes even those with no criminal background, found their way to the trouble spots and began to loot.

A year’s hindsight has suggested to me that whatever the cause of the original riots in Tottenham, the disorders that followed were able to take place because the idea had taken hold that ‘everyone was at it’, that the opportunity had unexpectedly presented itself to loot with impunity and that this, for some, was an opportunity that could not be missed.

As for why the riots came to a close, officers being made available in large numbers through Mutual Aid, some 16,000 in London alone, now appears to have been the principle deterrent to those thinking of returning to the streets for another night of disorder.

Proposed cuts to police numbers in this respect need to keep this in view – financial circumstances make cuts necessary but not at the expense of our ability to raise large numbers should the need arise.

The tragic deaths of the three men on Dudley Road, Birmingham, similarly arrested the further development of the riots, accompanied as they were by the impassioned appeal for calm of Tariq Jahan, father of one of those lost.

The riots, already sinister in tone, had taken on a direction that even those originally enthusiastic about the looting seemed reluctant to follow.

A year seems like a long time but as I’ve said, looking back it’s hard to believe that twelve months now stand between today and those chaotic, hellish scenes.

The need to maintain a visible, believable presence, alongside an ability to rapidly respond to incidents before they are able to escalate, will likely be the key elements in preventing a repeat of history and I think are some of the most important considerations to take from the riots.

Whilst the riots thankfully reached their conclusion after a few long days, a conclusion is yet to be reached on their legacy, with this anniversary reminding us that time does not heal all wounds.

The IPCC, for example, is yet to report on Mark Duggan’s death and investigations are ongoing to identify outstanding rioters with Operation View still yielding results in the West Midlands.

We have the flexibility in our structure and the quality in our people to deal with situations such as those seen during last August.

The real measure of our response to the riots will come not on this anniversary but in ten, twenty or thirty years time – should those decades pass without a repeat of the 2011 riots then we’ll know the steps we took away from Tottenham were steps taken in the right direction.

Olympics update – apologies for the lack of blogs over the past few weeks, I’d been down in London helping Lord Coe out at the games. I’m looking at putting a blog together about the experience of living and working in the capital just as soon as the games themselves draw to a close – highlights include the torch relay, Team USA and Wimbledon so stay tuned!.


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