London riots push British leaders to approve harsher police tactics [VIDEO]
The British public is asking why it took so long for the government to authorize the use of weapons like rubber bullets against rioters. But it is unclear how effective they will be in quelling the riots.
(Page 2 of 2)
The use of rubber and plastic bullets is a big deal, if it happens – British police are normally unarmed, according to Bloomberg. When dealing with angry crowds, British police usually aim to contain them until they dissipate. The most common tactic is something called "kettling," in which police surround the crowd to prevent it from growing or moving and gradually allow members of the crowd to leave.Skip to next paragraph
Israeli general hints at another Gaza campaign
Unclaimed attack on Islamic school raises tension in Nigeria
See no evil? Activists doubt credibility of Arab League mission to Syria.
Arab League observers head to Syria's war-ravaged Homs
Christmas church bombings put global spotlight on 'Nigerian Taliban' (VIDEO)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The tactic, used successfully during last year's student protests, was ineffective this time around. The crowds were too large and fast.
Guardian columnist Duncan Campbell took a look at the Met's options for confronting rioters. Many observers have cited the use of water cannons and rubber and plastic bullets in Northern Ireland as proof that they are a good option on the mainland, but Mr. Campbell questions whether the Met should be emulating the controversial tactics used in Northern Ireland.
Again, this is used in Northern Ireland and credited with dispersing crowds without fatalities. The Met's deputy assistant commissioner, Steve Kavanagh, has said that baton rounds – plastic bullets – could now be used: "If we need to, we will do so." But shots to the head from close range can kill. Again, as with water cannon, the police would struggle to get officers trained in the use of them to the scenes of violence. One problem is that both water cannon and plastic bullets might merely heighten the levels of excitement for the committed rioter and looter. And is Northern Ireland really an example of how to keep the peace?
The key question for those who discourage harsher tactics is one of proportion. "Imagine the reaction if a police officer shot a baton round at an unarmed teenager who had stolen designer gear under his arms... or sausage rolls?" a BBC reporter asks.
There is no comparison between the situation in Northern Ireland and the riots currently sweeping London and other cities in Britain, Sir Hugh Orde, the former chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and now president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the Guardian.
"I do not think it would be sensible in any way shape or form to deploy water cannon or baton rounds in London. Baton rounds are very serious bits of equipment. I would only deploy them in life-threatening situations. What is happening in London is not an insurgency that is going to topple the country. There are 8 million people in London and it is a tiny proportion doing this. They are gangs of looters and criminals and although it is concerning it has to be kept in proportion," Sir Orde said.
IN PICTURES: Britain riots