MPs have criticised the police's handling of the riots in England in August, suggesting they should have mobilised more officers onto the streets sooner to stop the violence. In a damning report which is particularly critical of the Metropolitan Police in London, MPs on the Home Affairs Committee have placed the blame firmly on the side of senior police officers, and not on government ministers who were mostly on holiday during the first 48 hours of rioting.
While MPs commend rank-and-file officers' bravery in the face of the riots, they criticise the tactics used by senior officers, who failed to pre-empt the likely spread of the violence from Tottenham in North London to other parts of the capital and beyond.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday morning, the Labour chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz, said police in London weren't able to put enough officers on the streets to tackle the problem. "They managed to get there in the end, there were 3,000 on the first night and 13,000 on the Tuesday," he said. "It was a case of Christmas coming early for some people in August."
However MPs have stopped short of calling for greater powers for police in light of the riots, including the use of baton rounds or water cannon. Using either of these would have escalated the tension and violence further, their report concludes.
Keith Vaz also said that there should have been better dialogue between the Metropolitan Police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over the death of Mark Duggan, the black man from Tottenham whose shooting by officers was the trigger for the first night of rioting in north London on Saturday the 6th of August.
MPs believe there was confusion over who should have been the primary contact with Mark Duggan's family, with neither the IPCC nor the Met Police taking the lead. MPs note that Mark Duggan's family found out many of the facts of his death through the media, because both the police and their watchdog failed to keep them properly informed.
There were also serious failures in establishing the facts surrounding Mark Duggan's death. Initial reports from the IPCC suggested that there had been an "exchange of fire" with police at the time of his death. It was later confirmed that both shots were fired by police. This was a blunder by the IPCC but MPs suggest this was in part caused by a failure of communication between police and the IPCC.
The IPCC admitted last week they'd made mistakes in claiming that Mark Duggan had been killed during an exchange of fire.
However the MPs conclude their report by saying: "Even in Tottenham, it is not clear that the circumstances surrounding the death of Mark Duggan were the only influences at play. In other locations, the link to the original trigger is even more tenuous and provides no explanation for what went on."
However the MPs' report is silent on whether politicians, including the prime minister, home secretary and mayor of London, could have done more, including whether or not they should have returned from their various holidays sooner when the violence first broke out.
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