Lessons Must be Learned from this Week’s Violence
Everyone I know has been shocked and disgusted by the recent violence in towns and cities across the UK. The violence that has been accompanied by looting and burning is fortunately a very rare event in this country. Perhaps that is why the police have so often seemed so ill equipped to deal with it. I work in west London and I have many friends who live in Ealing, Croydon, and other London boroughs which have been affected by the disgusting behaviour of a minority. They have been personally affected by recent events.
I was horrified to see scenes of police in full riot gear standing by while shops were smashed up and looted. The cries of members of the public who expected to see the Police arrive when they called and have had to cower in their properties with no Police protection should never be allowed to happen again. The Met Police have over 33,000 officers and over 4,000 Specials and yet they had no more than 6,000 on the streets of London on Tuesday night when the worst violence broke out. Individual officers did their best but the heirarchy failed in their duty to the public. For years now the Met Police top brass have been hide-bound by their desire to follow politically correct agendas and not annoy their Labour political masters. They have had their spirits broken by successive reports and attacks on their methods. At the same time incidents such as the bungled shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes showed elements out of control.
The Police need radical reform and elected Police commissioners are a good start. However, this is not the time to be slashing Police budgets. There are undoubtedly efficiencies to be had and bureaucracy to be swept away but as David Cameron said today “the first duty of any Government is to keep its people secure”. Cuts in Police and Defence budgets hamper that ability andsend out all the wrong messages.
In my opinion it is wrong to aportion some of the blame on social networking sites. Undoubtedly modern technology was used by some of the rioters but suggestions that this should be curtailed is wrong. The Police need to be sharper on monitoring such activity and it is noteworthy that after the riots Twitter, Facebook etc were all used to mobilise decent members of the community to aid the clear up operation. Every tool can be used for good or ill but it doesn’t make the tool itself evil or good.
It is vital now that lessons are learned and that as many as possible of the criminals responsible for the looting and rioting are brought to justice as swiftly as possible. Children under the age of criminal responsibility should have their parents held accountable, and those old enough should have to serve some community sentence to repair their community in addition to any prison sentence they may receive.
David Cameron has performed very well since his return from holiday. He has sounded tough but sensible, in sharp contrast to some on the left who have been keen to blame “cuts”, “deprivation” and “boredom”. He now needs to reconsider whether cutting the forces of law, order and security is a sensible thing for a Government to be doing. The Police hierarchy also need to examine closely the tactics they use and the number of officers actually on the streets tackling and deterring crime.
The horror of the last week is also an opportunity to take a hard look at our society and the lack of respect for figures of authority by too many young people. Teachers, parents and adults in general have too often felt that the state has undermined any attempts to impose discipline and teach respect for authority. We need fewer excuses and less justification for bad behaviour. Youngsters who riot, loot and burn need to know that they will be caught and that breaking the law has serious consequences.
Out of these disgusting scenes can come some good but it will take cool heads and courageous leaders at all levels. I am optimistic that the longer term consequences of this week’s riots can be positive if the opportunity is seized.