”I was absolutely petrified” – how beat officers faced the rioters

London Road, Croydon, the morning after. Pic: Germaine Arnold

Police workers and volunteers not normally tasked with facing violent crowds have described what it was like to face the riots in Croydon on Monday night.

Sergeant Sarah Davies, whose regular role is to be part of the safer neighbourhood team in Coulsdon West, was drafted in to the town centre at the first sign of trouble.

She said: “I think it’s worth noting that we had lots of level two officers there, but we also had officers like myself and the specials who were dressed as I am today.

“And that was all our protection against all the missiles that were thrown.

“But people just got on with it. It was the make-do spirit of just having to cope with the situation that you’re in.

“Everybody pulled out all of the stops to come out in to the town centre.”

Speaking in front of the ruins of the House of Reeves furniture store, razed to the ground by the mob, she added: “It has to be said there were brave PCSOs, there were brave specials, the officers were all amazing.

“Everybody who could come out, did come out.”

David Long, 29, a manager at a local leisure centre, said there was no distinction between his role as a Special Constable and those of regular police officers in the eyes of the rioters.

He said: “We can’t have a brick thrown and say ‘Sorry, don’t throw it at me, I don’t get paid’. It’s no different.

“I just had my baton, my common sense, my uniform and my training, and the instructions from senior officers.

“In front of me at one point there were two to three hundred literally down one road facing us. And we were front line, trying to keep order.

“There were missiles thrown, rocks – basically anything they could pick up they were throwing at us.

“And the more they threw, the more people arrived, the more confident they got.

“And the more robust we became, and luckily more officers attended and we flushed them out of Croydon.”

Kellie Heath, 32, had worked a normal day shift as a witness care officer for the Met Police on Monday, before then offering to take to the streets of Croydon as a Special Constable when it became apparent the riots had spread there.

She did not finish until 6am on Tuesday.

Wearing only her police hat and vest for protection, she had to dodge out of the way as bricks and bottles were thrown at her and her colleagues.

Ms Heath, who has been a special for just under a year, said: “I was absolutely petrified.

“As a special you get training to a certain level but I’ve had never had to deal with anything like this.”

Sergeant Rob Smith, who was in charge of Croydon’s Special Constables and supported them on Monday night, said their performance was “absolutely superb”.

He said: “I take my hat off to them. Not many people would want to be anywhere near this sort of situation.

“These are volunteers, some of whom want to become full-time officers, some of whom who just want to give something back.

“Some had a fair amount of experience but some of them very little.

“And they were literally shoulder to shoulder with their more experienced regulars. Doing exactly the same job, being hit by the same bricks – absolutely amazing.”

Another local officer, Detective Constable Kris Blamires, who usually works in plain clothes in CID, also went beyond the call of duty to support his fellow officers.

He said: “All I had was my old riot kit which I just put straight over my CID suit and went out with that.

“I’ve never had to do that ever before.”

Yesterday, Scotland Yard Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin praised Special Constables across London for their role in policing the riots which swept the capital this week.

A total of 1,415 volunteers from the Metropolitan Police Special Constabulary were on duty on Wednesday to restore order to the streets – compared with the 270 who usually work on a typical day.


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