Justin Davenport, Crime Editor
3 Feb 2012
A squad of 700 riot-trained police will be on permanent stand-by to deal with possible disorder in London this summer, including during the
In an effort to avoid a repeat of the rioting and looting last August, the officers will be prepared to react immediately to any early sign of trouble.
Police are also adopting more aggressive tactics to deal with troublemakers, which will involve “going forward” rather than standing in a line, said Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe.
He told the London Assembly police and crime committee that it was accepted the Met did not do enough when the riots broke out in Tottenham last summer – trouble which spread in the following days to other areas of the capital and the country.
Mr Hogan-Howe also admitted senior officers did not pay proper attention to warnings of possible trouble from the community. He said: “On the
Saturday night we’ve accepted from the beginning that we didn’t have enough police available to deal with Tottenham High Road.
“We’ve got significantly more police officers available to deploy, we’ve tested that.”
He said the Met was training more officers to deal with riots, but warned they would have to be taken from response and safer neighbourhoods teams, though he did not think it would have a serious impact.
Police need to be “more on the front foot” he said, “using vehicles, going forward, not standing in a line.” On whether “more extreme measures” might be used, such as water cannon and baton rounds, he said: “They’ve been there 30-odd years. If there is to be a change, that’s a political decision, and we’ll work with the Home Office on that. I don’t think it’s something the police should impose.”
More officers are also being trained to comb through CCTV footage, he said.
However, the Commissioner warned that there was no guarantee riots could be quickly quelled. “It’s always very difficult on the first night. You’ve not got officers waiting to deal with this, they’ve got other things to deal with, domestic violence and so on.
“They are not always match-fit for the first few hours. No matter how much training you give, it can be a challenge on the first night. But you have my commitment that it will be better.”
He added: “We are in a stable and confident position, but there’s more to do, with more people being trained, and more vehicles available.”
In a wide-ranging discussion on London’s crime problems, he said more work was planned on getting to grips with gangs whose members are often repeat offenders, including robbers and burglars.
He said it was important not to stop and search innocent people. “If we are going to target gang members, we must keep the good people on our side.”
Stop and search has had only a six per cent “success rate”, he said, adding that he hoped for improvement.
“However, six per cent, if it takes 200 knives off the street, has had a good effect. But repeated searching of innocent people we want to reduce and, ideally, eradicate.”