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Friday, 12 August 2011

Policing the riots: the thin blue line

Parliament is only recalled at moments of national crisis, and on such occasions it is rarely a forum for lively debate. Thursday's long session on the riots was decent and decorous and carefully non-partisan. And MPs showed a worrying lack of interest – or perhaps it was a failure of courage – when it came to considering the causes.

This is the kind of environment that allows high-risk ideas an easy ride. Thus the policing equivalent of the nuclear option – the possibility of calling in the army – was given cross-party support. But that was not the only reason for the police, who must collectively have thought it could get no worse after the damage done by the phone-hacking investigation, to realise that they had yet to plumb the depths.

Until the debate, the muttering against the police tactics of the first three nights, when they were perceived to have stood by while shops were looted and burned, had been muted. In the Commons, MPs let rip.

David Cameron, perhaps with a blistering attack from his old rival for the top job David Davis in mind, said the police had treated criminality as if it was a public order issue. There were not enough officers, they did not engage. The effect on public confidence, as the Labour backbencher Hazel Blears said, was devastating.

READ MORE > http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/11/police-riots-cameron-cuts-editorial


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