David Cameron responds to rioting, promises changes on policing

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Metropolitan Police in Lewisham preparing for the riots.
Image: Stuart Bannocks.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that a change in police strategy is appropriate following what many feel to be an inadequate response to the rioting that has overrun many cities across England. Riots started in Tottenham on Saturday night after the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old taxi driver who the Independent Police Complaints Commission state was in possession of a handgun, but did not fire it.

During the Parliamentary debate on the riots, David Milliband, the Labour leader, called on Cameron to reconsider cuts to police budgets. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne described the communities where the rioting occurred as being "left behind" and "cut-off from the economic life-blood of the rest of the country", and called for solutions to the "deep-seated social problems"

One avenue the Prime Minister is said to be considering is changing regulations on social media services like Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger, the latter being used to communicate between groups of rioters. The Open Rights Group and Big Brother Watch came out in opposition to any plans to restrict communication using social media, with Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group warning that such regulation would be abused by the police and private companies.

In Southampton, England, three people were arrested by police for the suspicion of using Twitter or BlackBerry Messenger to encourage the rioting. The government is "working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality," said Cameron.

The Prime Minister also announced that he would consider using the army to support the police in controlling future rioting, and also that he would consult with William J. Bratton, CBE, who had been the chief of police in Los Angeles and a police commissioner in New York City and Boston. Bratton is quoted as saying that arrests are not the only way to solve societal problems which lead to rioting and unrest: "You can't arrest your way out of the problem."


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