British police out in force to deter riots

Fri Aug 12, 2011 6:42pm EDT
 

By Jodie Ginsberg

LONDON (Reuters) - British police flooded the streets to ensure weekend drinking does not reignite the rioting that swept London and other cities this week, shocking Britons and sullying the country's image a year before it hosts the Olympics.

Steve Kavanagh, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said 16,000 officers, instead of the usual 2,500, would remain on duty in London in their biggest peacetime deployment -- a measure of the perceived public order challenge.

Other forces, including those in the cities of Nottingham, Birmingham and Liverpool, said they would maintain a high level of policing over the weekend, although they said they were not anticipating further trouble after a couple of nights of quiet.

Even in normal times, alcohol-fueled street disorder is commonplace across urban Britain at weekends.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, describing the four nights of looting, arson and violence, in which five people were killed, as "criminality, pure and simple", called the initial police response inadequate.

His remarks drew a sharp response from the police service, which is facing deep cuts in numbers as part of a government austerity drive aimed at cutting public debt.

"The fact that politicians chose to come back is an irrelevance in terms of the tactics that were by then developing," said Hugh Orde, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, referring to Cameron and other senior ministers who cut short their holidays after two days of mayhem at home.

Looking for help further afield, Cameron has offered William Bratton, credited with curbing street crime as police chief in New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, the position of a consultant, said a spokesman for the firm Bratton now works for.   Continued...