Thugs must be made to fear police, says new crime adviser
Published 13/08/2011 | 05:00
YOUNG thugs and gang members should be made to "fear" the police and the prospect of serious punishment for acts like looting, David Cameron's new crime adviser has claimed.
In a newspaper interview, Bill Bratton, the former New York police chief, said that many young people, especially gang members, had been "emboldened" by over-cautious policing tactics and lenient sentencing policies.
Losing public confidence in its ability to provide security -- through force if necessary -- creates "incredible difficulty" for a police force, Mr Bratton said.
Mr Cameron is an admirer of Mr Bratton's approach to policing and has asked the American to advise him on gangs and urban violence in the wake of this week's riots in English cities.
Those riots have sparked criticism of British police forces for their initial response. Mr Cameron has said the police initially used the wrong tactics and failed to treat rioting and looting as proper crimes.
Speaking in New York, Mr Bratton said that police forces should be more assertive in their dealings with offenders, leaving no doubt that crime will always meet a firm response.
"In my personal experience, these days unfortunately the younger criminal element -- many in the gang community in particular -- don't fear the police and have been emboldened to challenge the police and effectively take them on," he said.
More than 1,600 people have now been arrested in connection with this week's events, and 796 have been charged.
In other developments yesterday:
•A serving British army soldier appeared in court in Manchester accused of taking part in riots in the city on Tuesday.
•The mother of a 12-year-old boy convicted of looting wine from a Manchester shop faced eviction from her council house after the local authority moved to end her tenancy agreement.
•Mr Cameron faced an angry backlash from police officers of all ranks over political criticism of their tactics, forcing the prime minister to back down.
•Some critics believe that British forces have been cowed into timidity by threats of legal action and a lack of political support for robust policing.
Mr Bratton said that officers should leave no doubt that they were ready and willing to use force when required.
"What needs to be understood is that police are empowered to do certain things -- to stop, to talk, to frisk on certain occasions, to arrest if necessary, to use force," he said.
In particular, he said, gangs must "understand that provocation will be met with appropriate response".
He added: "It is absolutely critical that we are seen capable of providing security."
To be effective, a police should have "a lot of arrows in the quiver," he said, advocating a doctrine of "escalating force" where weapons including rubber bullets, tasers, pepper spray and water cannons were all available to commanders.
Mr Bratton's comments may fuel the debate about how British forces responded to the riots, a debate that has angered some police chiefs.
Mr Bratton insisted he was not criticising the Metropolitan Police or other British forces, saying he made a point of "not critiquing other agencies" until he had intimate details of how they worked.
The American also backed Mr Cameron's pledge to hold the parents of young criminals responsible for their children's actions.
"There are also actions you can take against parents. The principal responsibility for controlling children is not the police or government. Parents bear the ultimate responsibility," he said.
However, he warned, some parents were "so disengaged that they're of no value".
Mr Bratton has run police forces in New York and Los Angeles, winning both plaudits and criticism from his "zero tolerance" approach. (© Daily Telegraph, London)