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Saturday, 13 August 2011

Top cops furious as David Cameron and Theresa May try to claim glory

BRITAIN'S top cops yesterday issued a stinging rebuke to David Cameron for claiming he quelled the riots.
Furious officers - from the head of Scotland Yard to rank and file street cops - lined up to attack the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Theresa May for saying they had ordered the crackdown on the rioters.
There was also anger that Cameron used his Commons statement to accuse the police of being too timid to take action against the thugs and looters.
Acting Metropolitan Chief Tim Godwin pointed out that Cameron and May were still on holiday at the start of the riots.
He said: "I think after any event like this, people will always make comments who weren't there."
Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, also rounded on ministers and claimed Cameron and May were trying to take the glory for decisions made by senior officers.
Sir Hugh said the politicians had made no difference to the police operation to end the mayhem on Britain's streets.
He said: "The fact politicians chose to come back is an irrelevance in terms of the tactics that were by then developing."
He added: "The more robust policing tactics you saw were not a function of political interference - they were a function of the numbers being available to allow chief constables to change their tactics."
Sir Hugh also said May had "no power" to cancel police leave.
The damaging rift comes as officers are still trying to keep a lid on the riots after English cities were rocked by four nights of violence, looting and disorder.
May said on Thursday she had ordered the "robust approach" and cancelled all leave.
But acting commissioner Godwin played down the role the Home Secretary had played.
He said: "What I can say is that with the unprecedented scenes that we found in London, I have got some of the best commanders in the world ... that showed great restraint and great courage.
"As a result of that we were able to nip this in the bud after a few days.
"I think the issue around the numbers, the issue around the tactics - they are police decisions made by my police commanders and myself."
The police have already clashed with the ministers over plans to cut 16,000 frontline officers over the next four years.
Sir Hugh said fewer officers would make it more difficult to maintain public safety.
He added: "We need to have some very honest conversations with Government about what we stop doing if we are to maintain front line service delivery at current levels."
Police Federation vice chairman Simon Reed said the suggestion police changed their approach after ministers stepped in was "a cheap shot".
He said: "I know Sir Hugh and you call tell when he's upset.
"He is upset, and quite rightly so. I think it is a slight on the rank and file because some of the tone of the words used were that they were 'too timid', implicating they weren't brave enough.
"Rank and file officers will be very upset about those comments, because this was unprecedented levels of violence.
"To say it publicly is denigrating not just chief officers, it's denigrating the brave officers who were working those nights.
"Police officers up and down the country will be very slighted by what this Government has now said."
Reed also lashed out at the cuts, saying the police would struggle to contain future riots if their numbers are reduced.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles fuelled the row by insisting Cameron had led the operation to restore order.
Pickles, who sits on the emergency Cobra committee with Sir Hugh and Godwin, said: "I never had any doubt who was in charge of that meeting and that was the Prime Minister."
But London Mayor Boris Johnson sided with the police.
In clear contrast with Cameron, he said the Metropolitan Police had done a "fantastic job" in protecting the capital.
Johnson also defended the way the police had handled the riots.
He said: "Anybody can have 20/20 hindsight about decisions that could have been taken on Saturday night.
"But let's look at what's happening with the huge amount of arrests that have taken place. People who did this stuff are not getting away with it thanks to the efforts of the Met police force."
Nick Clegg also distanced himself from Cameron and May by saying politicians should not be "armchair generals".
Shadow policing minister Labour's Vernon Coaker said: "It is disgraceful of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister to try to take the credit for taking tough action when it was the police that determined the right approach.
"The government should not be playing politics with public safety at any time but it is unbelievable that this is happening now.
"Instead of the Prime Minister and Home Secretary spinning the police they should be supporting them.
"We and the public think it is incredible that this government is hell bent even now in cutting over 16,000 police officers when they are needed more than ever."
Labour leader Ed Milliband yesterday stepped up pressure for a public inquiry into the riots.
Cameron has so far rejected calls for a full investigation saying a probe by MPs would be enough.
But Miliband said if the Government refused to hold a "national conversation" about the cause of the disturbances, Labour would organise one.
He said: "We cannot allow situation to develop whereby there is a focus for a few days on these issues and then we go back to business as usual.
"It is our duty as politicians, my duty as Leader of the Opposition, to make that happen."
The Labour leader blamed the riots on a "me first" culture. But he accepted that New Labour must take some responsibility for what happened.
He said: "I think we did good things for the country.
"But I've also said that I think we did better at rebuilding the fabric of our country than the ethic of our country.
"I think that's true and no Government should escape, no Government should evade its share of that responsibility, but nor can you just blame the current Government."

 

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