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London Riots: Last chance to get it right

August 10, 2011
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In a situation like this, I hate to say I told you so, but I did. Someone died last night. In fact, three people did. All three were killed by having a car driven into them as they tried to protect their home. And the most frustrating thing is that it was so easy to see coming.

The fourth nights of riots are over. Last night was relatively quiet in London city, most likely due to there being 5 times the normal number of police on the streets. Instead, riots flared up in other cities in England – Manchester, Birmingham, Salford and West Bromwich were among the centres to have to fight new mobs.

And as common people begin to lament the police’s lack of strong action, groups are being formed among communities to protect their neighbourhoods themselves. The public has absolutely had enough, and with damn good reason. Skirmishes are now breaking out between rioters and ordinary people, with situations such as the one I outlined above resulting. Seriously, we now have what is essentially vigilante action and gang warfare being forced onto the streets, because the police are still too scared to do what needs to be done.

The Prime Minister is making more statements, looking increasingly cross, and saying that unless the rioters calm down, he might even have to consider bringing in water cannons. For God’s sake, BRING THEM OUT NOW. They should have been out long ago. All policemen are on duty constantly, having to do 20-hour shifts, with two hours’ break before being put back out on the streets again. The individual officers are doing an incredible job, but they need to be allowed to use the power that they have to stop this nonsense, and not be too scared to use any kind of force for fear of backlash. Police beating and detaining suspected rioters is worlds better than oridinary citizens being forced to do it.

And the police absolutely can’t maintain where they are. The entire police force must be just about ready to collapse from exhaustion, while the rioters can interchange easily, and go home to sleep in the meantime. Even if damage has slowed down a little now, as soon as all those police get taken back off the streets, there’s nothing to stop it all starting up again. As I’ve been saying for days now, there is absolutely only one way out of this, and that is to make the punks fear authority.

The newspapers are finally catching up with some of the rioters/looters. It’s easy when idiots like @itsBARBZbabes make retarded comments on Twitter like “Got tones of stuff todayyyyy!!!!!!!! #LondonRiots whop whop”, but there are also interviews with people, such as the 17-year old girls who told the BBC, “Breaking into shops – it was madness, it was good fun” “just getting a couple of free things… it’s the government’s fault. I don’t know, conservatives, whoever… it’s the rich people who’ve got businesses”, before laughing and saying they hoped it continued while necking back stolen wine.

Hopefully there’s nobody left who believes there is any legitimate social cause or need behind this. What needs to happen now is two things: the police need to have the authority to head out there and forcefully restrain these people, and they need public support to still be behind them when it’s over. And secondly, the justice systems need to come down like a ton of bricks on anyone found to have been involved.

Unfortunately, this is where I’m going to make my second grim prediction: the vast, vast majority of the rioters will get off with nothing, and those who are charged will get pathetic sentences. The fact is, the courts are bound to play by the rules, and in a situation like this it is going to be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to prove every element of any given crime was perpetrated by any given individual. Most of the evidence will be circumstantial: the person was in the area, maybe being aggressive to police, holding stolen goods and had messages on their phone talking about how they were going to go loot and then bragging about having done it. To be able to prove that the messages weren’t just lies and bluffing, that they knew the goods were stolen, and that they weren’t just walking down the street at the time for each individual will be tough. The best that might be able to be proven will be some little, insignificant crime for a few which won’t be enough to carry a heavy penalty.

In my opinion, each and every person caught as being involved with any part of this mess needs to be treated as a willing and deliberate member of the riot as a whole. The total amount of damage done needs to be attributed to each defendant, regardless of their level of involvement. They need to be considered to have acted together for a greater target. Your mate gave you a T-shirt? You’re just as guilty as that other guy who firebombed a car. I don’t care. Situations like this only manage to get out of control like this if a large enough group of people are involved. Put the fear of heavy prosecution for anything into the people, and people will be far more reluctant to get involved next time. Without a mob of people, each doing their own small things, a situation like this simply couldn’t have happened and the police would have crushed it a long time ago, without the total loss and devastation that has been brought down upon thousands of innocent citizens. You’re involved, you’re guilty. There are far too many people who will get away absolutely scot-free due to being unable to be identified, or insufficient evidence. Someone has to be held accountable for all this or there simply won’t be any disincentive to repeat it.

And on every person, the penalty needs to be severe. We need heavy fines, long hours of community service, and preferably jail time. To the absolute fullest extent possible. Accepting a stolen shirt might be a minor crime hardly worth mentioning in ordinary circumstances, but these are extraordinary circumstances and we need extraordinary punishment if there’s any chance of this not just happening again.

Also, check out this blog, written by a policeman directly involved. And if you read these things and agree, please pass them around!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Angela permalink
    August 10, 2011 6:08 pm

    Well said. I’ve been following the riots and I must say thank you for your postings–much better than what I see/read about in the news. Thoughtful insight and good coverage. It was fascinating to read the policeman’s blog, and hear his account of everything. This was dead on:

    “As for the ‘youth’ with thier looting and attacks on the police; the ordinary man in the street understands fully what is going on here. They hate us because we disrupt their criminal lifestyles. Simple. It’s no more complicated than that. My position, even if we were mislead by the IPCC, is that armed criminals should be engaged with firearms if necessary.” -Police Inspector Blog, inspectorgadget

    Your analogy of the substitute teacher was perfect. Being an educator and having taught in the US and Japan, I’ve dealt with my fair share of little shits. I have stood up to kids, put them in their place and made examples out of them, all within legal boundaries of course. Many times I have had good to even amazing results. Complete turn-arounds in kids. But the fear of retaliation from them or worse, their parents or the school board has always been there. I feel for these police who are walking on the same eggshells, and being criticized for doing too much (“No brutality!”) and now too little (“Why aren’t they doing anything!?”) Makes me want to smack these people upside the head. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the police need to be given the authority to do what needs to be done.

    Reading your post yesterday stirred up images of the movie Tombstone, when Wyatt Earp has finally had enough of the gang in town and declares,

    “The Cowboys are finished, you understand? I see a red sash, I kill the man wearin’ it! So run, you cur… RUN! Tell all the other curs the law’s comin’! You tell ’em I’M coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear?… Hell’s coming with me!”

    …And sure enough it does.

    Granted, this is a movie, but a movie based on real people in a real town with real actions and results.

    I sigh at the general public’s lack of understanding and criticisms, I feel for the police and their tough situation and I am angry with the rioters and their disregard for everybody. A lesson from my mom to her kindergartners is one I wish the whole world would abide by:

    “If it doesn’t help, don’t do it.”

    Again, thanks for writing.

  2. August 10, 2011 11:08 pm

    Hey, thanks for the awesome and long comment!

    It’s interesting reading about it all from a cop’s point of view, alright. And yeah, I’m sure most people would know what’s really going on if they were honest with themselves, but it’s become so socially difficult to just accept base badness in people that nobody’s willing to admit it.

    I have hope though, that this will finally open people’s eyes to the truth and we get some understanding and acceptance in the general public of the need for a tough police force… for the next year or so, anyway.

  3. catlady permalink
    August 11, 2011 1:57 am

    another good post [as usual] however I think you attribute too high a mental functioning level to lots of the mob involved–fear of repercussion doesnt seem to be a factor when in lots of cases you are dealing with sub-normal moral deviants ? and percieved safety and anonimity in numbers [ and loads of others who are just opportunists without empathy who jump on the bandwagon ]-but yes despite the fact I dont think fear of repecussion would be a disincentive in lots of cases I do agree the police need to given whatever powers and resources are required to quickly quell the existing situation , and then take a measured view on how to prevent and respond to similar events in the future–I do think it is a complex problem with no easy answers.-certainly not just brute force [from whatever camp ] in isolation.

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