Posts Tagged 'London'

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!.

London calling to the faraway towns…

The Olympics have come to us, now it’s our turn to go to them. What’s involved in getting us police officers to London?

It’s now one week until I, along with several other of West Midlands Police’s finest officers, get sent down to London to help out at the Olympics.

The games themselves are eight days away and as I think I made clear in my last blog, I’m looking forward to getting involved.

What does it take to get us there though? Is it simply the case of throwing our funny shaped hats into a kit bag and hoping on a train?

To say that a lot of planning has gone into the Games is somewhat of an understatement.

Whilst I’m sure Lord Coe has pitched in with a paintbrush here and there, he’s been supported by a small army of support staff all working together to ensure that the swimming pools are filled with water, the 100m track is exactly 100m long and that there are enough leotards to go round.

Of the different aspects to consider in the preparations, security is probably one of the most important.

Speaking frankly, I’m not sure what to make of this. My view is that if there’s a group of people who don’t need a great deal of police protection, it’s world class athletes.

Why do I say this?

Well, try mugging Usain Bolt. As soon as you’ve said ‘Give me your…’ he’ll be in Luton. Likewise see what happens when you get a bit shirty with the Taekwondo teams, or the weightlifters.

Put simply, there’s hardly anything separating the athletes currently flooding into the capital from the cast of Avengers Assemble and with their ability to pole vault, somersault and chop their way out of trouble I’m not going to be too worried about them.

This said perhaps the same can’t be said about the public at large and so they’re the reason that we’ll be on the streets of the capital in large numbers, having our photos taken next to tourists and saying ‘ello ‘ello ‘ello to anyone who fancies causing trouble.

Getting us there though has been far from straightforward and something that’s been in planning ever since we won the right to host the world’s sports day back in 2006.

Consider the first issue for example – ensuring that we have the resilience to support both the local forces in London whilst at the same time also policing the good people of Birmingham. We can’t all suddenly take flight to the capital so we’ve had to work out how to strike a sensible balance.

This is made harder by having to abstract multiple officers from a range of different departments, all likely working different shift patterns and from different locations.

It’s not a job I’d envy and I think the staff in our Resource Management Unit have done a cracking job so far in working out how to juggle us officers around so to provide the Games with officers whilst at the same time leaving plenty for our own commitments.

Freeing up officers though isn’t the half of it.

Once you’ve allocated a chunk of police officers (I think the plural for police officers is a chunk) you’ve then got to work out what to do with them.

This will mean working closely with the local forces and LOGOC to understand their requirements, to get our heads around which athletes will be where, who will be throwing what and where will we need to stand to ensure we don’t get a javelin lodged in our stab vests.

This is made harder by the fact that the security requirements are ever changing. New intelligence will be flowing in all the time and could change the situation overnight meaning our Olympic Planning Department need to be ready to alter their arrangements at a minute’s notice.

So you’ve got the officers and you know roughly what they need to do, now you need to work out how to transport large numbers of officers from across the West Midlands to venues across London and beyond.

Some will be traveling in police vehicles, others in coaches and some may even hop onto trains, all of which need to be tightly scheduled so that everyone knows where and when they need to be and so we can avoid any hilarious Home Alone situations from occurring.

If you’ve never been on a coach full of police officers, it’s not a million miles away from being on a school trip. I don’t really envy the supervisors sat at the front putting up with constant calls of ‘sarge are we nearly there yet?’ or ‘sarge I need the toilet’ or even ‘sarge PC Smith keeps pinching me’…

Having got us to London, we then need to be clothed, sheltered and fed. We eat a lot so heavy duty catering facilities are a must. A quality coffee outlet and easily accessible doughnut vender will also be welcome. Essentials out the way, we also need places to securely store CS spray and to recharge radios.

We’re now in London, our bellies are full and we’re ready to hit the streets, where do we need to go and what exactly are we going to be doing?

Whilst policing duties are largely the same across the country, equipment and procedures are not so we’ll need to do a little ‘acclimation’ to get used to local forces’ radio networks, their computer systems and anything else that they may do differently.

A series of ‘eLearning’ packages completed ahead of our deployment will have helped although there’s still likely to be a few teething issues whilst we work out which button does what on the Met Police radios and learn to overcome the temptation of pressing the big red one marked ‘do NOT press’.

Clothed, fed and up to speed on working in London, the task of policing the games can finally begin in earnest as can that of enjoying our time down in the capital.

It’s something a little different for us, a fantastic opportunity for us to get involved and is sure to provide some great memories.

Much of the planning behind the Games will have taken place out of the public eye by people who you’re unlikely to ever of heard of, the work they’ve put in though in pulling it all together will be reflected every day in what I think is going to be a great event. Here’s to them!

Going for gold…

Lots of sports are happening in London starting next week and I’ll be heading down to help out – am I excited? You bet!

Now I don’t know if you’ve heard but in around ten days, depending on when you’re reading this, there will be starting down in foggy London Town a big fancy sports day.

I’m a little hesitant to mention it by name as even the name of our fair capital has been classified as a ‘protected word’ (see here for more) but then I probably don’t need to – you’ll have seen the five ‘sports day discs’ printed on every item in the supermarket, will be well acquainted with Wenlock & Mandeville and you may have even seen the sports day sparkler being carried through your town as it winds its way towards the metropolis.

Yes, the big sports day is indeed a big deal and one that I’m greatly looking forward to, not only because I like watching the sports people doing their sports but also because I, like many other police officers from around the country, am going to be directly involved.

Us police officers hold a privileged position – we get to do things that many people will never do, we see things that most folk wouldn’t want to see and we meet truly ‘animated’ characters on a daily basis.

When it comes to national events we often find ourselves with a front row seat being paid for the privilege of saying ‘I was there’.

Such events are career milestones – the roles we play in them may not necessarily be interesting but they are things we can look back on in ten or twenty years time with the satisfaction that we’ve had the opportunity to take part.

Some of the older officers I work with still remember what they were doing during the Miners’ Strikes – not necessarily fond memories but such events are milestones nonetheless that come to punctuate careers.

My first ‘milestone’ was helping out for the Pope’s visit in 2010. I wasn’t doing anything interesting – I was guarding a fence outside St. Mary’s College in the middle of the night and was in bed long before the Pope came anywhere near but even so, I’d contributed, I’d been involved.

I’ve always thought that you get out what you put in and so when the emails went out earlier this year asking for volunteers to go down to London for the big sports day, I jumped at the opportunity.

I didn’t do so under the impression that I’d be inside the stadium for the opening ceremony, or chasing after Usain Bolt in the 100m final – I actually thought I’d probably be nowhere near any of the events and stuck at a tube station somewhere directing lost tourists whilst being equally lost myself.

This didn’t matter though, what mattered was that I’d get a chance to be there.

With the festivities starting next week, the plans for my own deployment, along with those of officers around the country, are finally starting to take shape.

As I’ve mentioned on my Twitter feed I’ll be boarding a coach bound for the big smoke next Thursday and whilst I can’t say too much about what I’ll be doing whilst I’m there, I’ve got a week and a half spell helping out at the games which I’m very much looking forward to.

As I’ve said, you get out what you put in. I’m thinking the Olympics (I said it!) will be a great chance to put this approach into practice.

P.S. I’m a little unsure how frequently I’ll be able to update the Twitter feed over the course of the deployment. I’ll be following the advice given to us by Lord Coe and whilst the IOC seems encouraging on the use of social media during the games, I get a feeling I’ll be so busy that I might not get the chance.

March in the morning sun…

The Police Federation is encouraging officers to come to London today and take part in a protest march against the Winsor Report – why are they doing this though and what’s in the report itself?

If you keep your peepers on the news today, you’re probably going to see something about a rather orderly demonstration making its way through the streets of Westminster. You’ll notice that it’s a little over-policed (pretty much every marcher is a police officer) and that the participants are opposing something called the Winsor Report.

What’s going on though? What’s the reason for this mass foot patrol and why are some members of the police force not happy about the changes to their pay and conditions as proposed by Winsor?

First of all, this is a pretty difficult one to write about for a range of reasons.

The Winsor Report itself is spread over a few hundred fact-filled pages and doesn’t make the easiest bedtime reading so summing it up is far from easy.

There are also a range of opinions about what the proposals really mean and how they’re likely to affect the police – representing all sides fairly is far from straightforward.

This said, I’ll try my best – who is Tom Winsor and what’s he got to say about policing?

Mr. Winsor is a lawyer and Great Britain’s former Rail Regulator. In 2010 the Home Secretary, Theresa May, asked him to sit down and take a look at how police pay and conditions could be reviewed with the objective of improving the efficiency of how the police manage their manpower and to ensure that remuneration and working conditions are fair.

This is set within the context of the harsh economic climate – a national debt of around £18 billion and an estimated cost to the taxpayer for public sector pensions of £32 billion, out of which £1.9 billion is accounted for by police pensions.

Review he did and in March last year the first part of his report was published looking at recommendations aimed at making short term improvements. It predicted that if the changes suggested were adopted, savings from the police pay bill of £1.1 billion were possible over a three year period.

Before Part One could be brought into force, negotiations took place with the Police Federation (who represent rank and file officers) as to which of the recommendations would be accepted. At the conclusion of this process, the Home Secretary announced that she would support the implementation of Part One’s recommendations.

After a pregnant pause lasting a year, the second part of the Winsor Report was published. Part Two looks at longer term changes to the police force with some of the key suggestions being as follows -

  • A new direct entry scheme to Inspector level
  • Pension age to be raised from 55 to 60
  • Compulsory severance for police officers
  • A reduction in pay for officers not in a position requiring the use of their warranted powers and for those on medical restrictions
  • Introduction of an annual fitness test
  • Changes to how officers progress through the pay scales including shorter intervals and payment linked to skills

In favour of these recommendations, Winsor argues that they will reward the hardest working officers and in his words ‘create a more skilled and effective workforce fit to face the challenges of the next thirty years’.

Raising the retirement age should help address the funding gap in public sector pensions and by opening up direct entry to senior ranks, it is proposed that policing will appear a more attractive career path and so attract the best candidates.

Winsor believes the ability to make police officers redundant will help Chief Constables better manage their resources in times of financial hardship and that the skills base of forces will be improved by introducing a stronger financial incentive to gain valued training and experience.

Opposing the report, the Police Federation has expressed concern that the review could ‘dismantle’ the British police service.

It is said that the first part of the review, alongside the Hutton report on public sector pensions, have already dented morale and that officers feel betrayed that the conditions for which they signed up for are apparently being weakened with the perception being that they will have to work longer and contribute more but end up with less on retirement. Job security could be threatened by compulsory redundancies and the report’s focus on front line duties may undervalue important backroom functions.

In addition to these concerns, the Federation say their members are expressing wider frustrations with the series of financial cuts expected of the service (20% across four years) as well as staff reductions and perceived moves towards ‘privatisation’ of the police.

As I said at the start of this blog, this isn’t an easy one to sum up in under a thousand words and as such I think the best I can do, having given a brief overview, is to point you in the right direction to find out a little more about the issues raised by the march. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin -

No distance left to run…

Yesterday's Virgin London Marathon seemed to set the tone nicely for the Olympics which officers from the West Midlands will be involved in policing.

Yesterday I spent much of the morning popping up from various underground stations to watch the Virgin London Marathon in all its 26.2 mile glory. I was keen to see both the race itself and also to get a glimpse at the policing operation supporting the event as I’ll soon be coming back to London myself to help out with an even bigger sporting event – the Olympic Games.

As ever the preparations that would have gone into the race paid off handsomely with the return being a smoothly run event that was as enjoyable for the fans as it was for the participants themselves. London lends itself well to hosting a race on the scale of the marathon and the international flavour of the audience which I spent most of the day weaving through I think showing the worldwide appeal of the capital city.

The course record was just missed with Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang winning the male race in 2:04:44 and Mary Keitany, also of Kenya, being the first woman across the finish line with a time of 2:18:37.

As an occasional amateur runner myself I know these times are ridiculously quick – I was happy with completing the Black Country Half Marathon in just over an hour and a half last year so can’t really put into words how impressed I am when the pros go to work.

On the policing side, officers from both The Met, the British Transport Police and the City of London forces looked like they were having as much fun as some of the spectators. There were officers perched on horses, lots of bobbies wondering around on foot and support vehicles parked on nearly every street corner.

Hosting the marathon every year they’re obviously used to the size of the event and I reckon this bodes well for hosting the Olympics which I guess they’ll just see as a big fancy sports day.

Okay, maybe Lord Coe would challenge me on that description – the Olympics are going to involve tens of thousands of people flooding into the capital to watch athletes competing in a range of disciplines at venues spread across the city and beyond. The spectators – and not to mention the athletes themselves – are going to require feeding, housing, transport and security on a massive scale. In less than one hundred days London is going to be capital of the world.

Whilst London is the host, the games are obvious larger than the city itself and so require help from all over to ensure they run to plan. Thousands of volunteers have come forward and when it comes to supporting the capital’s emergency services, there’ll be staff from all over the country drafted in to reinforce the local resources.

As the second largest force, West Midlands Police will be sending a number of officers – myself included – down to London to provide what we call ‘mutual aid’. Planning for this operation will have been going on behind the scenes ever since we first won the bid for the games and will no doubt be on a scale as grand as the games themselves.

Whilst at the moment I don’t know exactly where I’ll be working or what I’ll be doing, I’m likely to be working the the British Transport Police to ensure the underground and overground train networks can manage the increased load. Having spent three years living in London myself and never really getting my head around the tube map, this could be interesting but I’m sure we’ll do our best!

Other officers will be providing support in different roles including specialist search teams, public order and crowd control.

Whilst the focus of the Olympics will obviously be on London, this isn’t to say that we’re not affected by the games up here in what Londoners term ‘the north’ with there being events to get involved with even if you didn’t manage to get tickets for the mens’ 100 meter final or the inexplicably popular womens’ volleyball.

You can keep an eye out on the local events over on the London 2012 website with the main thing to look out for being the Olympic Torch visiting Walsall on Saturday June 30th.

It’ll be making its way down the A34 onto Green Lane, past the police station and then doing a lap of the town centre before dashing down the Wolverhampton Road and across Junction 10 of the M6 towards Willenhall and then on into Wolverhampton.

The route is planned so that the torch will pass within ten miles of 95% of the population, check out the map to find out when and where it’ll be coming to your area.

The other main consideration for the West Midlands is that of security – there’s always the chance someone might use the games as an opportunity to cause trouble and as such we need your help in ensuring this doesn’t happen. We ask that you remain vigilant in the run up to the games and that you report any suspicious activity connected with the Olympics to us immediately. Either call us on 101 or approach Crimestoppers anonymously.

As you may be able to tell, the Olympics are something that I’m really looking forward to and so am happy that I’ve had the chance to go down and get involved in an event which I’ll remember for the rest of my police career.

It’s going to require a lot of work from a lot of people to make the games a success – judging from what I saw in London yesterday I think we’re on the right track.

Weak become heroes…

Gary Dobson and David Norris - today sentenced for the murder of Stephen Lawrence

Yesterday David Norris and Gary Dobson were found guilty of Stephen Lawrence’s racially motivated murder in Eltham in 1993. Today they have been sentenced to life imprisonment – Norris for a minimum of fourteen years and three months, Dobson for a minimum of fifteen years and two months,

I wanted to use this post to reflect on both what the case has meant for me as a police officer about to end my first two years in the job and also a little on what the legacy of the trial ought to mean.

In the wake of the murder, the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, led by Sir Macpherson, branded the Metropolitan Police to be ‘institutionally racist’.

The damning conclusions reached by Macpherson suggested that because of racist attitudes within the Met, they had been unable to conduct an effective investigation appropriate to Stephen’s murder and that justice had suffered as a result.

A major change in attitudes was clearly needed.

As a direct result of Stephen’s death and the campaigning of his family, changes for the better have been achieved and continue to be achieved.

In legal terms visible examples include the overturning of the double jeopardy rule and the passing into law of the Race Relations Amendment Act which places upon public bodies a duty to eliminate discrimination and promote equality.

In terms of police training, much of the legislation we are taught when we first join the job is set against a background of how in the past errors have been made and what the lessons are.

Showing how importantly this consideration – the desire to learn from history so to avoid its repetition – is taken, the first week of the eighteen week course is dedicated to looking at issues surrounding diversity and discrimination.

Past cases are discussed – the Brixton Riots, Toxteth, Lawrence, Climbie, Baby P to name a few – and the learning points discussed so that new officers understand the consequences of previous failings.

One of the most important things I’d taken away from looking at such tragic examples was a stark reminder that when I applied to be a police officer, I didn’t apply to offer protection to only some members of society. I didn’t apply join a service in which public confidence in ability to do our job varied according to the colour of someone’s skin, their background or where they come from.

Appreciations about racist and hate crime of course don’t end with the finish of training school and actively permeate throughout the police force, be it in the regular training inputs available or in the practical way in which we tackle crimes involving a hate element.

Hate crimes in particular attract specific attention from specialist evidence review teams whilst cases are still with the police to ensure the highest quality of investigation and then once they reach the courts, a perception of a hate motivation qualifies for the passing of tougher sentences.

As for the legacy of the trial, it’s taken eighteen years to bring those responsible to justice. The strain on Stephen’s family who had campaigned tirelessly ever since his death is unimaginable and it may be tempting to see the conviction of Norris and Dobson as ‘case closed’.

This I think would be the worse possible outcome – Stephen’s legacy is something that lives on, that continues as a force for positive change and that is, and always will be, an important lesson on how we police.

As Mark Easton writes on the BBC News website, “Problems still exist but Britain is much more at ease with its racial diversity than it was two decades ago. And that tolerance, in no small part, is the legacy of a teenage boy: Stephen Lawrence.”

It’s all over now, Baby Blue…

My 'Dedication' pic - 39,000 something views, over 2000 retweets, picked up by Sky News, ITV, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Express & Star to name a few...

Whilst I’m writing this, many officers across the West Midlands and further afield are slowly returning to normality after the tumultuous days of the previous week.

As the pic above shows, the shifts we’ve worked have been long, they’ve been tiring and demanding but at the same time have been necessary. Our job is to serve the public and when such an extraordinary set of circumstances arises, we are compelled to do all we can to return a sense of order to the streets.

When I talk about ‘normality’ of course, I guess it’s important to recognise that when it comes to the job of a police officer, there’s really no such thing.

‘Normality’ for officers in Walsall yesterday meant dealing with a major factory fire in the centre of the town. Normality meant the helicopter hovering overhead as units rushed around sealing off roads, evacuating houses and us looking like fluorescent windmills as we directed traffic around the scene of the incident.

I’d said earlier in the week how important the support of the public has been in helping officers through the longer shifts and giving us that extra boost when we reached four in the morning having worked however many hours and upon trying to write a statement, felt so tired that the words on the paper appeared to jump out of order and dance around the room.

The level of support that we’ve received, particularly through the social media sites, has in my experience been quite unprecedented and through my Twitter account alone I’ve read hundreds upon hundreds of messages wishing us well and congratulating us for our work.

I’ve been making sure that these messages find their way to the officers who are not quite as technically minded as myself and am really struggling to put into writing how much they’ve meant to us or what a difference it makes to know that whilst a small band of hoodlums have been out causing trouble, the vast majority of the public have been as shocked as we were at the scale of the disorder.

From talking to people whilst we’ve been out on foot patrols it is clear that this support is evenly distributed and there have been some superb acts of kindness shown by the public, locally with biscuits being dropped in at Willenhall Police Station and some rather delicious cakes finding their way to the nick at Walsall.

Of course from one point of view, the title of this blog is a little misleading (sorry Bob) as yes, whilst police officers are slowly resuming their normal duties, a wider discussion is now taking place on the cause of the riots and how to prevent their re-occurrence. We’re looking at ‘Broken Britain’, enhanced policing powers and importing super cops. Whilst the disorders have subsided, they were symptoms of a wider disease and it is the disease itself that needs a cure.

In addition to this discussion, efforts to identify and prosecute those sophisticated criminals who took part in the looting are ongoing with Operation View in the West Midlands now well established and yielding successes on a daily basis.

Eight days ago I don’t imagine anyone could have predicted how the rest of the week would have panned out. This is the nature of policing though, the unpredictability is something we’re used to but this isn’t to say that makes it any easier to deal with. What has helped though is your support, support that’ll not be readily forgotten.

Watching the people get lairy, it’s not very pretty I tell thee…

Riot police move in to tackle protesters (Image from BBC/PA)

Back in March I’d written a blog post all about the intricacies of what constitutes a ‘public order’ offence. This was published against the background of the March for the Alternative demonstrations during which several protesters were arrested under various sections the Public Order Act.

The point of the post was to explain a little what these offences were as whilst the media were happy to report people having been locked up for public order offences, there didn’t seem to be much clarification for non-legal bods about what the term might mean.

If you read the post at the time or have just pulled it up to have a scan now, you may have noticed that I covered Sections 5, 4A, 4, 3 and 2.

Where, you might ask, was Section 1? And what is Section 1?

Section 1 refers to a highly topical offence taking into account the recent disturbances in London. Section 1 of the Public Order Act is riot.

How does the law define a riot though?

According to the Act, riot is very close to violent disorder (Section 2 of the Act) in terms of how it is described. To quickly recap ‘violent disorder’, it is where three or more people act in a way that causes another person to fear for their own personal safety. Their actions have to be more than words and can be directed against another person or against property.

Very simply put, riot is the same as violent disorder but rather than involving a minimum of three people, involves a minimum of twelve.

These twelve people have to be using or threatening violence for a ‘common purpose’ and do not have to all be doing so simultaneously so if eleven people are smashing up a bus stop and the twelfth is with them but taking a break to drink a nice cup of tea, there is still a riot.

Today’s offence of rioting replaces the older offence given in the Riot Act 1741 under which miscreants could be prosecuted if twelve of them had gathered and not dispersed within an hour of the Riot Act itself having been read out to them. This is where the term ‘reading the Riot Act’ comes from.

Whilst The Riot Act itself has since been replaced, another similarly elderly law relating to today’s offence of ‘rioting’ still sits on the statute books and is applicable today. This is known as the Riot (Damages) Act 1886.

The implication of this Act is that should a riot occur, the police may be required to pay compensation for the damage.

This has happened recently to Bedfordshire Police Authority after an immigration detention centre was destroyed by a fire started by ‘persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together’ and its owners sued accordingly.

The £42 million cost for repairs to the centre is one of the reasons that in legal terms, ‘riots’ are very, very rare. A large scale disorder will be classified as many separate incidents of criminal damage, violent disorder, affray or assaults rather than as a riot with the argument sensibly being made that there is no ‘common purpose’ amongst those gathered.

Call them as you will, however, the ‘Tottenham riots’ and ongoing issues in London are still totally unacceptable and I think it’s fair to say there’s a great deal of sympathy up here in the West Midlands for those countless Met officers who will have been working long, stressful shifts restoring the peace and reassuring the local communities in the areas affected.

The BBC are continuing their coverage as events unfold and the Met too are providing regular updates through their News & Appeals page. Finally, for an insider’s view of the riots and what it’s been like to police them, I’d recommend you take a look at Inspector Winter’s excellent blog on the events which is available here.

Cause in sleepy London town there’s no place for a street fighting man…

Police lines standing firm in Tottenham (Image from BBC/PA)

I’m writing this post as both a serving police officer and also a former London resident outraged in both respects at the inexcusable discharge of violence seen last night in Tottenham.

Reports are still coming in with the press, police and other agencies doing their best to sift through the debris to establish what happened and why.

What is clear though is that at time of writing, twenty-six police officers have been injured and two are hospitalised. Numerous shops have been ransacked, vehicles destroyed and many innocent people’s homes gutted by fire.

Furthermore what is clear is that what apparently started as a small, peaceful demonstration outside a police station was soon hijacked by a criminal minority who chose to use as cover tensions over recent events in the capital to commit large scale disorder that have led locals observing the aftermath to liken it to the Blitz.

Each and every police officer, fireman and paramedic sent the to the scene last night has a family. They work long hours in roles that are often unpleasant and do so because they joined their jobs with one thing in mind – to protect the public.

That a band of hooligans saw fit to turn on officers and turn on the residents of Tottenham itself says nothing about ‘community tensions’ – it shows only that a small group of people decided to exploit the opportunity to cause a great deal of illegal, totally senseless chaos.

They weren’t representing the communities of Tottenham, weren’t representing London and certainly were not ‘protesters’ in any sense of the word.

I was glad to read in the Met’s press release that forty two people have been arrested so far in connection with the riots. Here’s hoping that many more arrests will follow…

You can follow developments around this story both through the BBC News website and also by visiting the Met’s News & Appeals page. For news on the shooting of Mark Duggan both of the aforementioned sources can be consulted as can the Independent Police Complaints Commission who have been asked to investigate the incident.

In the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more…

Officers stand ready for store opening on the first day of the January sales...

This is a very, very quick post to bring to your attention an interesting video that has cropped up on the Guardian website filmed by one of their reporters who accompanied officers from the Met Police’s Territorial Support Group during their tour of duty for the ‘March for the Alternative’ protests in London on March 26th. It feels reasonably well balanced and gives an insight into what it’s like for the police officers who are deployed to maintain the peace during a march of such a huge size. If you’ve a short attention span like me you may well shudder at the video’s fifteen minute length but stick with it, it’s well worth the watch.

P.S. This PC couldn’t work out how to get his own PC to embed said video directly into this blog. The code provided by the Guardian didn’t seem to work in WordPress and despite locating the video’s source location I couldn’t coerce it into appearing as a playable video – do any web wise readers have any ideas on how to embed a .mp4 video into the body of a blog?


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