Police 'expecting repeat of riots'
Police expect a repeat of last summer's riots and are concerned about how budget cuts will affect their ability to deal with the unrest, according to a study into the disorder.
The majority of officers caught up in August's unrest believe similar rioting is likely, with many citing worsening social and economic conditions as the potential cause, the survey found. They also fear their forces do not have the resources to cope with unrest on a similar scale.
A total of 130 officers from eight forces were interviewed as part of The Reading the Riots research conducted by the London School of Economics and The Guardian. Most gave anonymous accounts of the riots which spread across London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Salford last summer.
Nearly all those interviewed described the unrest as the greatest physical and psychological challenge of their careers and officers of all ranks said they were astonished no colleagues were killed.
One superintendent from Greater Manchester Police said he expected more disorder within the year. When asked if rioting will happen again, he said: "I think if you have bad economic times, hot weather, some sort of an event that sets it off...my answer is: yes, it could."
Police generally rejected criticism of the tactics deployed during the trouble, but admitted they were stretched to the limit by the scale and speed of rioting and left totally overwhelmed in places.
Senior Metropolitan Police officers also accepted they struggled to deploy enough staff to contain the violence during the four days of disorder in the capital. The study reveals the Met failed to activate a national alarm system to call for more resources until the third day of riots, and once officers from other forces did arrive they were hampered by poor communication with central command.
Forces across England also failed to fully act on intelligence gleaned from social media networks, which were used by rioters to outmanoeuvre police, the interviews revealed.
Officers from West Midlands, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cambridgeshire, Thames Valley, Hampshire, Surrey and the Metropolitan Police, were interviewed as part of the second phase of The Reading the Riots study. Victims, so-called vigilantes and lawyers who dealt with the aftermath in the courts were also quizzed.
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, said police would struggle to cope with further disorder if the proposed austerity measures went ahead and urged the Government to take "urgent stock" of the results of the study.