Cut stop and search, say independent riots panel

Hackney fires. Pic: Belinda Otas

An independent report has recommended Croydon police cut down their stop and searches after finding the riots rooted in “underlying tensions and disaffection”.

In the first official account of the August riots, The Croydon Independent Local Review Panel concluded that the “prime spark” of the riots was the impression that people could loot freely without the appearance of any consequences.

But it also found that a “range of other pre-existing issues and conditions” – such as poverty, unemployment and over-use of stop and search – “had to be in place.”

It further concluded that police should reduce stop and searches “that are not evidence based” and conduct them “in a dignified manner”.

The panel was set up in September by council leader Mike Fisher to investigate the reasons for the looting and destruction of the August riots, as well as ways to prevent future strife.

Describing an atmosphere of lawlessness, it said: “That impression was given by publicity of people looting unchallenged in Tottenham and subsequently other areas through television and other media.”

But it went on: “The key issue has been the lack of police resources.”

All 60 of the borough’s riot officers and borough commander Chief Superintendent Adrian Roberts were deployed elsewhere when the trouble began, and were not returned until three hours later.

The Panel stressed that it was not blaming officers who made “their best efforts to protect Croydon”, but said they had waited too long to call for backup.

It also reported a “melting pot” of issues such as police ‘stop and search’, unemployment and lack of opportunities that contributed to the riots.

They said these were “collectively underlying causes of the riots” but concluded they were not “the direct causes”. They went on to dismiss the notion that gangs had organised or sustained the riots.

The report describes in forensic detail how a peaceful protest following the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham on August 4, led in Croydon to 100 households affected and the unsolved shooting of Trevor Ellis during the chaos.

It said: “The rioting began in the commercial centre of Tottenham on August 6 but quickly spread to Tottenham Hale Retail Park and looting was a key characteristic of the disturbances.”

At 4.32pm on August 8 an email circulated from Croydon police to the community stating that it was “business as usual” in Croydon. But by 7pm the riots had escalated and the borough requested reinforcements from Metropolitan Police central command.

To prevent future riots, the report concludes, authorities need to engage and support offenders beyond merely punishing them.

It said: “Local agencies involved in multi-disciplinary service provision targeted at offenders and those at risk of offending [must] give consideration as to how best to involve the myriad of community groups that exist across Croydon to support the individuals and families that they work with.”

It further recommends: “That the Metropolitan Police Service gives consideration to improving its processes for gathering and assessing information and intelligence from social media networks for the purposes of reducing crime and disorder.”

Croydon saw the highest arrest rates of any of the 18 boroughs affected by the riots, with 324 suspects. The second highest was Lambeth with 54 suspects. Nearly 20 per cent of the rioters in Croydon were aged 17 and under.

Read the full report online here.




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