I am hardening in my view that the August riots were essentially a police failure. The bad lads went out looking for trouble as they perceived that the police could not cope. The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel has come close to endorsing this view. They say:
The vast majority of people we spoke to believed that the sole trigger for disturbances in their areas was the perception that the police could not contain the scale of rioting in Tottenham and then across London.
Lack of confidence in the police response to the initial riots encouraged people to test reactions in other areas. Most of the riots began with some trouble in retail areas with a critical mass of individuals and groups converging on an area. Rioters believed they would be able to loot and damage without being challenged by the police. In
the hardest hit areas, they were correct.
The panel also talked about the riot going “viral”. The rioters had the benefit of modern technology and flexible work practices! The police did not. Whilst the rioters were using Blackberry messages to co-ordinate their activities the police could not get off-duty officers out of bed because the personnel people had gone home at 5pm and there was no access to officers’ home or mobile numbers (even if it had been in their culture to go back once clocked off). In London approximately 5,000 rioters humiliated a workforce of 32,000 warranted police officers (not to mention 5,000 specials and 5,000 PCSOs). The Metropolitan Police force’s budget is £2.7 billion per annum.