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Brit PM in row with UK police

LONDON - From wire dispatches | 8/14/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Tensions between Britain’s government and police leaders flared over Prime Minister David Cameron’s recruitment of a veteran American police commander to advise him.

Tensions between Britain’s government and police leaders flared over Prime Minister David Cameron’s recruitment of a veteran American police commander to advise him on how to combat gangs and prevent a repeat of the past week’s riots.

Cameron criticized police tactics as too timid and announced he would seek policy guidance from William Bratton, former commander of police forces in Boston, New York and Los Angeles. Bratton was a key figure in imposing “zero tolerance” policing in New York and cutting crime after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. British police have branded the move misguided and an insult to their professionalism. The criticism, led by Association of Chief Police Officers leader Sir Hugh Orde, underscored deep tensions between police and Cameron’s coalition government over who was most to blame for the failure to stop the four-day rioting that raged in parts of London and other English cities until Wednesday. “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, which the 63-year-old Bratton oversaw until 2009. “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,” said Orde, a former commander of Northern Ireland’s police and deputy commander of London’s Metropolitan Police. Scotland Yard Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin said there had been “inconsistency” from ministers over how tough the police were expected to be, following allegations of heavy-handedness in the G20 protests in 2009. “The views we are hearing now are slightly different to those,” he said.

“You can’t just arrest your way out of the problem,” Bratton told the New York Times in an interview. “It’s going to require a lot of intervention and prevention strategies and techniques.” Bratton said the British government was looking for “the idea of, what has been the American experience in dealing with the gang problem and, what has worked for us and not worked for us and how that can be applied.”

More than 2,140 people have now been arrested, of whom around 1,000 have been charged. Britain’s top officer said he expected around 3,000 people to face the courts over the riots. The unrest cost five lives and the first two people to be charged over the deaths were due to face court on Sunday. Joshua Donald, 26, and a 17-year-old male who cannot be named were to appear at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court charged with the murder of three men hit by a car while defending their neighbourhood against looters in Britain’s second city.

Compiled from AP and AFP by the Daily News staff.

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