U.K. police criticize hiring of U.S. gang expert
Published Saturday, August 13, 2011 9:26PM EDT
On a day of relative calm after a week-long series of violent riots in London and other cities across Britain, investigators lashed out late Saturday at the British government's plan to consult a veteran American police official on how best to tackle gang violence.
The Prime Minister's Office said former New York Police Commissioner William Bratton has agreed to act as an unpaid adviser to the government.
Bratton, who currently works with a private security firm, has served as police chief in Los Angeles and Boston, where he targeted gang violence. Bratton will hold a series of meetings in the U.K. this fall.
Prime Minister David Cameron has criticized police for being too timid in their attempts to gain control of the rioting and looting. Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, lashed out Cameron's decision to hire Bratton, questioning his expertise.
"I am not sure I want to learn about gangs from an area of America that has 400 of them," Orde said of Los Angeles.
"It seems to me, if you've got 400 gangs, then you're not being very effective. If you look at the style of policing in the states, and their levels of violence, they are fundamentally different from here."
Orde's comments were published in the Independent on Sunday newspaper.
Meanwhile Paul Deller of the Metropolitan Police Federation, a union that represents more than 30,000 officers, said Cameron should listen to the expertise of local officers rather than importing help.
"When Mr. Bratton was in New York and Los Angeles, the first thing he did was to increase the number of police on the street, whereas we've got a government that wants to do exactly the opposite," he said, warning of budget cuts that may put 2,000 officers out of work.
The tension between Cameron and law enforcement officials flared up on a day of relative calm from the rioting but what turned out to be a busy day for police.
Investigators announced Saturday they charged two men with murder in connection with a hit-and-run in Birmingham that left three people dead.
West Midlands Police said two men aged 26 and 17 will be arraigned at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Sunday.
The three victims -- Haroon Jahan, 20, Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31 -- were killed Wednesday when they were struck by a car travelling at a high speed as they stood guard in front of a row of family-run shops as looters ravaged nearby stores.
A team of 70 detectives was focused solely on the incident, which was the deadliest single attack during the riots.
Police also said Saturday that a 21-year-old man had been arrested in one high-profile looting case, which saw a group of men appear to assist an injured civilian before unzipping his backpack and stealing his belongings.
A video of Mohammed Asyraf Haziq Rossli being injured and then surreptitiously robbed went viral online, with Cameron describing the incident as a sign of a deeper societal malaise.
Metropolitan Police said on Saturday that Reece Donovan, 21, had been charged with stealing a Sony Playstation and a Nokia mobile phone from Rossli as he bled on the pavement.
In another development, detectives said they had opened a murder inquiry into the death of Richard Mannington Bowes, a 68-year-old man who died from his injuries Friday morning.
Mannington Bowes was attacked Monday by a gang of rioters after he tried to prevent a building from being burned in the western London suburb of Ealing.
A 22-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder, based on footage from CCTV cameras.
Police also said they are following up on leads in the death of a 26-year-old man, who was killed Monday night during the riots in London, shot to death while inside his car.
Calm returns to cities
Earlier Saturday, it appeared that London Metropolitan police had secured an upper hand on the rampant gangs of looters that terrorized communities over the several days.
More than 16,000 officers have been deployed on London streets in an attempt to dampen the violent mood.
Cameron has pledged to hand police and courts sweeping powers to use against those responsible for the unrest. Cameron warned those who continue to loot and pillage could face water cannons, dye sprays and even the country's military.
London police said Saturday that more than 1,200 suspects have been arrested in relation to violence and disorder on city streets since last Aug. 6. More than 700 people have been charged in London alone since rioting began.
ABC News London correspondent Jeffrey Kofman said the city had settled into a state of calm on Saturday.
"They seem to have the upper hand on this. It was a very, very disturbing week here," Kofman told CTV News Channel.
"There was a sense of complete anarchy just a few days ago. While they had a slow response to begin with they are very much in control now."
Kofman added that other cities across the country had returned to a state of normalcy, despite the enhanced police presence on the streets.
Government warns of harsh response
Cameron's government said it will consider giving Metropolitan police the authority to throw rioters out of state-subsidized homes, remove masks worn by young men and women while on the street and demand that phone networks shut off access to messaging services or social networks.
Also being considered is whether to allow police stronger authority over breaking up crowds and imposing nighttime curfews.
While some have applauded Cameron's tough talk, others fear the harsh line his government has taken could incite a fresh wave of opposition.
"The events of the past few days have understandably led to calls for tough new measures," said Isabella Sankey, policy director for the human rights group Liberty. "But knee-jerk powers ... could cause more problems than they solve."
Currently authorities can evict residents of state-run homes who commit offences in their own neighbourhood. About 3,000 of Britain's 8 million public housing tenants are evicted each year.
Under new measures, it would not matter where the offence was committed.
"That may sound a little harsh, but I just don't think it's time to pussyfoot around," Eric Pickles, Britain's Communities Secretary, told BBC television. "They've done their best to destroy neighbourhoods. Frankly, I don't feel sympathetic towards them."
Despite the tough stance by Cameron's government, a new poll suggests many Britons support the police response to the violence over lawmakers' actions.
The poll, commissioned by the Sunday Mirror and the Independent on Sunday, found that 61 per cent of respondents thought Cameron and others in government took too long to end their summer holidays and return to work to tackle the crisis. Cameron returned from an Italian holiday on Tuesday, when the worst of the rioting had subsided.
With files from The Associated Press