An in-depth study into the experiences of police officers caught up in last summer’s riots reveals that they were woefully outnumbered, leaving many in fear of their lives.
- Officers on the front line, who were often outnumbered and under-equipped, feared that they would be killed. Senior officers were astonished that no police died during the unrest
- Officers of all ranks were shocked and surprised by the extent and nature of violence directed at them, as well as the speed with which it escalated, with many describing it as the greatest physical and psychological challenge of their careers
- There were particular problems in London, where the system of “mutual aid” between forces failed to bolster the available resources at a critical time, with the Metropolitan Police not activating the national alarm system to call for more resources until the third and final day of the riots
- Numbers were so stretched in London that volunteer special constables and British Transport Police with no riot equipment or training were used on the front line
- Once officers from other forces did arrive, many were not allowed to deploy to the front line because their radio systems were not compatible with those used by the Metropolitan Police, preventing them from being deployed to outbreaks of violence
- Many officers from all ranks expect a repeat of the riots and are concerned that they may not have the resources to cope with future unrest on such a scale.
Ch Supt Roberts added that the Metropolitan Police did not have much experience of bringing in officers from outside, and that there were lessons to be learned, “but I can assure that if I’d have known that cops were sitting in car parks they would have been deployed pretty quickly”.
The officers in the study who said they were held back because of the radio problems said that were extremely frustrated by the experience.
“We’re all sat in the van, we’re taking phone calls from our loved ones, watching it all live on television – Croydon’s on fire, the police are under attack in Hackney, and we’re sat in a car park for the simple reason that we can’t get onto the radio channel that they’re operating on.
“In this day and age, I just think that’s laughable,” one said.
Heh… not it ain’t sir…