Police fear Britain faces more riots

By politics.co.uk staff

August 2011's riots across English cities could be repeated in the future, police fear.

Interviews with officers conducted by the LSE and Guardian found that most expected more rioting within the next 12 months.

Magistrates imposed harsh sentences on many of those convicted of looting and rioting in London, Manchester, Birmingham and elsewhere.

But police officers told researchers in a series of anonymous interviews that they believe further disorder is possible.

"I don't think anything has changed between now and last August, and the only thing that's different is people have thought: riots are fun," one police superintendent said.

The same officer said that anything from "bad economic times" to "hot weather" could set off another wave of rioting. Last summer's looting spread from Tottenham in north London, after public anger over the death of a local man at the hands of the police.

The interviews also revealed concerns that the police were stretched very thin during the riots.

Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the government needed to "take stock" of the report's findings.

The Police Federation is bitterly opposed to the reduction in frontline policing numbers it says will result from the Home Office's 20% spending cuts during this parliament.

According to Reading the Riots, police said that their commanders had been too slow to mobilise extra resources available to them.

"Officers interviewed rightly identify and voice concern that, should the same circumstances occur again, the police service would struggle to cope and contain the situation with the loss of police officers numbers we are experiencing as a direct result of the cuts – over 5,000 last year alone," McKeever commented.

"The government must take urgent stock of this; the safety and security of the public must be their number one priority."