U.S. 'supercop' warns U.K. riot arrests not enough

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U.S. 'supercop' warns U.K. riot arrests not enough

Post by TexasBlue on Sat Aug 13, 2011 11:32 am

U.S. 'supercop' warns U.K. riot arrests not enough

CBC News
Aug 13, 2011

A U.S. law enforcement expert who has agreed to help tackle gang violence in Britain in the wake of recent riots in urban centres says the government cannot "arrest their way out" of systemic problems facing the country.

Former New York city police commissioner Bill Bratton, confirmed late Friday as the new anti-gang advisor to the British government, said in a CBC interview Saturday that it's better to have measures in place to get ahead of the violence, rather than just react to it.

He said he'll be talking to British officials about applying what he's learned in the United States from his his work in battling gang violence in Los Angeles, New York and Boston.

"I'll be over there several times to participate in discussions, specifically around the issue of gangs and gang violence and what the American experience has been, how we turned the corner here and specifically in Los Angeles, where I was chief of police for seven years."

"And it is the idea that you cannot arrest your way out of this problem. You have to have intervention activities, a broad-based approach," he said.

For six days in the Spring of 1992, Los Angeles was a battleground as demonstrations over the police beating of Rodney King spun out of control. In the aftermath, the city brought in Bratton to help clean up the mess.

Bratton said he believes British police need to focus on quelling racial tensions by collaborating more with community leaders and civil rights groups.

"Part of the issue going forward is how to make policing more attractive to a changing population," he told The Associated Press. "Los Angeles and New York have benefited from police forces that "reflect the ethnic makeup of the cities."

"Almost everything that was done in L.A. successfully can be applied in Britain," Bratton told the CBC. "When I left L.A. in 2009, almost 70 per cent of the city's Latino population were rating police performance as good or very good. Two years later, it's understood if there was a poll today, the ratings would be higher."

Hailed for getting gang leaders off the streets

When Bratton stepped in as Boston's police commissioner in 1991, one of the steps he took to curb street violence was to deliver a list of about 400 of the city's gang and drug kingpins to then-Mayor Raymond Flynn.

Flynn said Bratton wanted direct indictments for as many as possible, sweeping some of the city's most violent criminals off the street for up to a decade.

"That's what he was good at; he was able to get those ringleaders off the streets," Flynn said.

Bratton, 63, said British police are doing an "extraordinary job" in rounding up suspects and investigating them, in part because they're using the same social media technology as some of the rioters, who boasted about committing crimes on Facebook and Twitter.

"That's the message that needs to be sent to them. You commit these crimes, we're going to film you, track you and get you," he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Friday that Bratton has agreed to make himself available for meetings this fall on an "unpaid basis."

Bratton told The Associated Press on Friday evening, however, that he's giving a free consultation, which he hopes will turn into a paid contract.

British police criticized for slow response

Police have faced a lot of criticism over how they handled nearly a week of rioting and looting, coming under fire for not responding strongly enough to the initial disorder.

Cameron said there were "far too few police were deployed onto the streets, and the tactics they were using weren't working." On Saturday, Bratton agreed that police were "stretched very thin."

In a BBC interview Saturday, British Finance Minister George Osborne said police did an "amazing job," but could learn to be more effective.

"We want to use the advice of people like Bill Bratton to really tackle some of the deep-seated social issues like gang culture in our community," Osborne said.

"But this is not just about police budgets. This is about a far bigger challenge, which is dealing with people who have been ignored for too long," he added.

Bratton said while there are "undoubtedly social issues" to be looked at following the riots, and the "underlying causes and resentment and anger," he stressed that "the first order of business" is public safety.

The nightly street violence that started a week ago is being blamed for five deaths. Rioting first broke out in north London's Tottenham neighborhood after a largely peaceful protest over the police shooting death of a local man, Mark Duggan.

Riots and looting then spread across London and other cities. About 1,600 arrests have been made, nearly half of them in London, where the worst of the rioting happened. On Saturday, police said more than 700 people have been charged with disorder and looting.

Friday night was a relatively quiet night on British streets, where thousands of police officers were out on patrol, despite fears that drinking at the end of the work week might lead to more violence.

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