Tension with police among reasons for riots
Existing tensions between police and the community, flamed by stop and search tactics, have been cited as a major cause for the riots in August last year.
A report published by the Riots Communities and Victims Panel this morning has criticised police for failing to deploy enough officers in the worst affected areas, such as Croydon, as well as a lack of communication and poor community relations.
Poor communication by the police is blamed both as a cause for inflamed tensions following the death of Mark Duggan in north London, and in a perceived feeling of abandonment within the community.
The report states: "In many, if not all, instances, there will be good tactical reasons for the police to act in a particular manner, but it is hugely important that the police explain their reasons.
"This is especially true where their actions are likely to lead to a perceived feeling – accurate or otherwise – of abandonment in communities, as was clearly the case in Haringey and Croydon following the riots."
The panel, led by Darra Singh, has also said the media’s blanket coverage, plus the use of social media, giving an impression of the fact police had lost control of the streets, was the single most important reason for the spread of the disorder.
Repeated use of the image of Reeves Furniture store ablaze was criticised.
The report states: "Images of the fire in Croydon were repeatedly shown even when the journalists were covering events in other parts of the country.
"There is a careful balance between capturing the events and contributing to an ‘excitement’ and ‘sensationalising’ agenda.
"Rioters believed they would be able to loot and damage without being challenged. In the hardest hit areas, they were correct."
A wish to attack the police was also cited.
It states: “The Panel identified that rioters’ motivations included the perception that they could loot without consequence and, for some, a desire to attack the police.”
Stop and Search was singled out as a reason for resentment in areas including Croydon.
In Croydon about 1,500 stop and searches are carried out each month, with about seven per cent resulting in arrests.
The report states: “‘Stop and search’ was cited as a major source of discontent with the police. Notably, this concern was voiced by young black men living in London with whom the Panel engaged.”
Up to 15,000 people took part in the August riots, with 430 reported crimes in Croydon, the highest of any area in the country.
More than 4,000 people have since been arrested, of which nine out of ten were already known to the police.
Senior police officers have pointed to this history of criminality as being a reason for police resentment.
Recommendations within the report include police forming a communications strategy so businesses can be given advice and warning of public disorder is threatening.
The establishment of groups such as Croydon Community Mothers Programme, which bring parents and the wider community together were also encouraged.
The use of restorative justice, such as Triage, where young offenders apologise directly to victims, was highlighted, with a case study of five offenders in Croydon helping restore a church they targeted held up as an example.
To see the report in full visit http://riotspanel.independent.gov.uk/