Lord Stevens,a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has warned that “Britain may face years of public disorder fuelled by the economic crisis, with police battling to keep control of the streets.” The Guardian says this view is shared by many high-ranking cops. Stevens says that he initial riot in August, in Tottenham after a police shooting, should have been anticipated, and that during the summer riots police had been “acting a day behind”‘ events.
Stevens believes that rising unemployment, and provocative police tactics like the widely-criticised “stop and search” powers, will lead to both peaceful protests and violent rioting in the future. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t accept this. A government source said the cause of the riots “was not deprivation and distrust of the police, it’s about getting free stuff.” The government believes that tougher policing and heavier sentencing will prevent further trouble.
The government are making a big mistake in rejecting Lord Stevens’ comments. Stevens was a pretty good cop, as far as cops go. He was the last Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who served his full term – in other words, he didn’t have to resign because of corrupt or incompetent performance; something that none of his successors have managed to do. And what I find very interesting is that he presided over an inquiry into allegations in Northern Ireland of collusion between the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and loyalist terrorists in the murder of Irish Nationalists – an inquiry which concluded that there had been collusion that resulted in the murder of Nationalists, and of protestants who had been mistaken for Nationalists or Catholics. It is not very common that a senior officer will come to such conclusions about fellow officers – indeed it took Stevens three inquiries before he would accept what the evidence told him. But he did finally accept the truth that fellow officers were indeed capable of conspiring to murder innocent civilians, which indicates he is someone who seeks and tells the truth. He has also been an influential advisor to both Labour and Conservatives. So why is the government rejecting his comments now? Because they don’t chime with what the government wants to believe – whether he’s right or not is irrelevant to the government.
Stevens warned the government not to be “insulting” or “arrogant” in dismissing the work of the panel of academics and former police chiefs that he will chair – and the government have immediately responded with arrogance. Is there any point in his panel actually producing a report? The government will just do what they want anyway – to hell with the truth.