Armed Forces, Britain, London Riots 2011, Parliament, Police

The Riots: enough is enough, arm the police

Riots, Hackney

Police, Hackney

The riots in London are abating, but the thuggery has spread to other big cities around the country. Luke Graystone recommends arming the police and giving them carte blanche to fire.

Well, I’ve held my tongue for far too long already.

This unprecedented outbreak of violence, particularly in London, has made us look like simply childish on the world stage. If there is any chance of rescuing Britain’s reputation ahead of the Olympics and Jubilee in the coming years, swift and decisive action is needed now. I’m often the first to point out the dangers of passing laws to arm the police or submit groups of lawbreakers to water cannon or rubber bullets. I believe that once you start empowering the police to harm people, or deal death and destruction as they see fit, we’ve lost something that we’ve fought, and continue to fight, countless wars to protect – our peaceful, lawful way of life.

I also firmly believe in the difference between the police and the armed forces; namely that the former protects us and maintains order, while the latter fight those who would seek to undermine our way of life. This is a clear division, and a necessary one.

However, the scenes of violence these past few nights have led me to believe that for some in our society, an opportunity to cause destruction should be taken up with glee. Witnessing the obvious desire for chaos in such a number of people, it is difficult to imagine an end to this without a shift which brings us into a fundamentally rebalanced society. Even as I write this, thugs are undoubtedly gathering across the country, while in the corridors of power the leaders of a democracy in crisis are debating the limits of their powers at present, and how they might best steer the debate in the Commons on Thursday morning.

Possibly for the first time, I have found myself supporting whatever transfer of powers to the police, the Home Office and those in Number 10 is necessary to stay this madness. Arm the police, introduce a curfew, gun down the yob setting fire to a furniture shop that has survived two World Wars. Our system cannot afford to spend time prosecuting and mollycoddling people who are fundamentally anarchists, and nor should it. As one teenage girl said when asked why she was looting a Currys Digital store last night, “I’m getting my taxes back”. How much does she think the past few mights have, and will, cost the taxpayer? Half of London lies in ruin with endless businesses and homes destroyed. Countless law enforcers are being drafted in, many from their holidays, to build a strong police presence. Our politicians are being flown home as quickly as possible by whatever means necessary to deal with the crisis. How much is all this costing us?

My views may be a little extreme for political consumption ahead of Thursday’s debate. However, there are things that can be done to curb the violence. Bringing in a new head of the Met would be a good start, to plug the vacuum at the top and provide a boost both to morale and organisation. Also, curfews and rubber bullets are not beyond the realm of possibility, even if it is a temporary measure to be repealed later.

Finally, it has been widely reported that a reason for the evident ineffectiveness of the police is due to the use of instant messaging and smart phones. This needs to be matched. We need a streamlined system for dealing with crises such as this – one of those extremely rare occasions that, despite the political overtures they make, this government may have to shift power right back up to the top to avoid too many committee meetings and get some more instant responses.

Only swift action, from a united front of all political parties, the public, the police forces and the media, will be enough to put a stop to this.


3 thoughts on “The Riots: enough is enough, arm the police

  1. Very informative and well opinionated article, I agree that it is a threat to the way we live with shops shutting early, it should be taken to a grave measure in my opinion

    Posted by Luke | August 10, 2011, 11:54 pm
  2. A reasoned and well-argued piece, Luke. For my own part, however (and as I said in my own blog on the riots), I would be extremely loath to recommend use of the Army. I also have a lifelong opposition to arming the police. As terrible and outrageous as the looting and wanton destruction have been, let us not lose perspective. One person died in London and there have been these three hit and runs in Birmingham. These are, of course, tragedies and the people responsible must be brought to justice. But, while there is an obvious need for the Government and the police to authorise drastic measures to restore the Rule of Law in this country, I think we should still be very wary about making a permanent change to the culture we have in this country (and which you describe so eloquently in your article).

    We must not overreact. The fact remains that, while looters are committing wholly unacceptable crimes against public and private property and causing untold damage, most looters are not killing people. They may be intimidating or even assaulting people but there have been, really, remarkably few deaths (though four deaths is clearly four deaths too many). Do we really want to see the police or the Army gunning these people down? Blasting with water cannons and rubber bullets maybe, but gunning down and killing them? I’m not sure. Moreover, once we let the genie out of that particular bottle and arm the police, we’ll never be able to put the cap back on. Think on that.

    Posted by A.P. Schrader | August 11, 2011, 11:10 am


  1. Pingback: A review of the August riots « Politics on Toast - August 14, 2011

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