Police hit back as British PM hires US supercop

13th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

British police vented their anger Saturday as Prime Minister David Cameron hired a US "supercop" to tackle street thugs, a week on from the outbreak of the worst riots in decades.

Former New York police chief Bill Bratton has agreed to visit in the coming months to give advice on dealing with gangs as Britain searches for answers as to how the country sank to such lawlessness.

Bratton was a key figure in imposing "zero tolerance" policing in New York and cutting crime after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

But senior British police figures are on the defensive, having held the peace in London for four straight nights following Monday's orgy of violence that saw rioting, arson and looting flare up in neighbourhoods across the capital.

More than 2,000 people have been arrested across England as the unrest spread to other major cities.

John Tully, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF), which represents rank-and-file officers in London, criticised the decision to bring Bratton on board.

"Although he has a glittering record across in the States, it's a different style of policing. The gang culture's different," the BBC quoted him as saying.

Ian Hanson, the chairman of Greater Manchester Police Federation, told ITV television: "What we've witnessed this week has been British policing at its absolute best.

"There is anger, there is disappointment, a degree of incredulity as well" at Cameron's decision.

"He needs to speak to us, not someone who lives 5,000 miles away."

The MPF's Paul Dellar added: "Here we police by consent... America polices by force. We don't want to do that in this country."

In interviews, Bratton said solving the problem was more complex than just arresting people. He said the solution was robust but community-based policing to nip gang culture in the bud.

Finance minister George Osborne backed Bratton's approach and said he would not back down from planned police budget cuts which Britain's opposition and senior police officers have criticised.

"We are committed to the plan we have set out for police reform," he told the BBC. "We want to use the advice of people like Bill Bratton to really tackle some of the deep-seated social issues like gang culture."

In a phonecall with Cameron, US President Barack Obama congratulated Britain's handling of the riots, Downing Street said.

"President Obama commended the prime minister on the steadiness he, his government and the British police had demonstrated in handling the recent riots and shared the prime minister's hope that the situation would now continue to remain calm," a spokesman said.

England has had three quieter days following the wave of violence which struck London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and several other cities.

More than 2,140 people have now been arrested, of which around 1,000 have been charged.

So-called "shop a looter" campaigns, featuring websites and video screens showing people's faces, have proved successful in snaring suspects, as public revulsion to the riots continues.

Courts have been working through the night to process cases involving suspects, who hail from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds although around a fifth are under 18.

Five people died in the unrest.

On Saturday detectives arrested a fourth and fifth suspect over the deaths of three men in Birmingham, central England, who were struck by a car while guarding shops from looters.

Meanwhile a 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murdering Trevor Ellis who was found shot in his car following rioting in Croydon, south London.

Richard Bowes, a 68-year-old man who was attacked in Ealing, west London, died due to a head injury, a post mortem found. Police are holding a 22-year-old man on suspicion of murder.

Police also charged a man in his 20s with robbing a Malaysian student of his games console and mobile phone in a shocking incident that was watched by millions of people on the Internet.

Reece Donovan, from Romford, an east London suburb, was remanded in custody.

Victim Asyraf Haziq Rosli was filmed being helped up after his jaw was broken during unrest in Barking, east London, only for the men who aided him to then empty his rucksack.

Meanwhile violence broke out in Londonderry in Northern Ireland as tensions spilled over surrounding a Protestant parade through the Catholic-majority city.

Vehicles were hijacked and torched, petrol bombs thrown and an explosive device hurled at officers, a police spokeswoman said. A mother and daughter were dragged from their car in one incident. Four men have been arrested so far.

Disturbances during the annual Protestant marching season are a regular occurrence in Northern Ireland.

© 2011 AFP

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