London is increasingly policed by force not consent – thanks to its mayors
originally: Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
published: 8th February 2012
Exactly six months ago a series of riots spread from Tottenham to other parts of London and across the country. The only way police officers were able to re-establish order in the capital, after three days with the criminals in control, was by sheer weight of numbers and the exercise of force.
While those on the right call for plastic bullets and water cannons and those on the left blame cuts by the coalition government, we are missing a crucial point: the authority of the police is no longer accepted by an increasingly large number of people.
Unless this position is reversed, nearly two centuries of policing by consent – where the public agree to co-operate with the police and actively support them – will have to be abandoned.
Unless drastic changes are made, routine policing, not just during riots, will have to be carried out by force, by a significantly larger number of police officers.
Not surprisingly, polls have consistently shown crime and disorder to be the number one issues for Londoners. Last summer’s riots have been followed by significant increases in violent crime on London’s streets and burglaries of people’s homes. When someone I know was held-up at gunpoint within a mile of where I live a few weeks ago, abstract statistics became real.
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