Ex-NY police chief to advise Britain on tackling thugs

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Prime Minister David Cameron has asked former New York police commissioner Bill Bratton to act as a consultant to British police on how to curb street violence, Downing Street said.

Bratton has agreed to visit Britain in the coming months to give advice on tackling gang culture, in the wake of the mob rioting, arson and looting that has blighted English cities in recent days.

"The prime minister spoke to Bill Bratton today to thank him for agreeing to make himself available for a series of meetings in the UK in the autumn to share his experience of tackling gangs while police chief in Boston, New York and Los Angeles," a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

Cameron "is keen for the government to draw on experience and expertise developed in other countries as well as in the UK.

"Bill Bratton, who has long-standing links with British policing, will be providing this advice in a personal capacity and on an unpaid basis."

Bratton told NBC New York that he expects to start work soon, but will not move overseas on a permanent basis.

The post would be long-term and is not specifically designed to respond to the riots that have rocked London and other British cities since last week, leaving city neighbourhoods in flames and five people dead.

Bratton told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph that young thugs needed to fear both the police and the prospect of serious punishment.

"You want the criminal element to fear them, fear their ability to interrupt their own ability to carry out criminal behaviour, and arrest and prosecute and incarcerate them," the 63-year-old said.

"In my experience, the younger criminal element don't fear the police and have been emboldened to challenge the police and effectively take them on.

"Very early on in peoples lives you have to have them understand that abhorrent behaviour, anti-social behaviour, will not be tolerated," he said.

Bratton was a key figure in imposing "zero tolerance" policing in New York.

"If you get things in their smaller stages, you prevent them from growing into larger problems, like weeding a garden," he said.

He said police officers needed "a lot of arrows in the quiver" ready to use when tackling mobs.

"The current debate is about rubber bullets and non-lethal force like Tasers, pepper spray and water cannon," he said.

"These are all various escalations in what would be described as non-lethal force, to meet a standing activity directed against the police."

He said policing had to be constitutional, passionate and consistent, with rich and poor areas seen to be policed in the same way.

Cameron last month raised the prospect of bringing foreigners into top police posts.

Newspapers reported that Cameron was keen on bringing in Bratton to take over as Britain's police chief, but Home Secretary Theresa May ruled it out, saying the post had to go to a British national, as advertised.

Paul Stephenson announced his resignation as Scotland Yard chief on July 17 as the News of the World phone hacking scandal spread. He stepped down after revelations of links between senior officers and the Sunday tabloid.

© 2011 AFP

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