The riots that began in Tottenham and have spread across London over the past few nights are a predictable consequence of the breakdown in trust between large and growing numbers of alienated youth and the Metropolitan Police over recent years. A culture of corruption at the top has long been tolerated within the Met, which has infected the entire force with a gung-ho attitude and mindset when it comes to policing on the ground. This has reached the stage where nothing less than a root and branch structural reform will suffice if public confidence is to be restored.
In recent years we’ve witnessed the police execution of Jean Charles De Menezes at Stockwell tube station and the officers responsible being exonorated. Worse, in what was a low point for then mayor, Ken Livingstone, the existing Met commissioner, Ian Blair, kept his job while the commanding officer of the operation, Cressida Dick, not only kept her job but was later promoted.
The confrontational approach to policing the 2009 G20 protests, involving the kettling of large numbers of protestors for hours on end, and where Ian Tomlinson was killed as a direct result of an incident of police brutality as he attempted to make his way home, has since been joined by recent revelations surrounding the corrupt relationship that existed for years between Met officers and the Murdoch press, involving ranking detectives and officers accepting bribes for confidential information regarding ongoing criminal investigations.
Along with the myriad daily incidents of police brutality and corruption experienced by those living in low income communities around London, the shooting dead of Mark Duggan in Tottenham on Thursday in what is daily emerging were dubious circumstances, has resulted in an inevitable explosion of anger and violence.
For people to have confidence in the police the police must be accountable to the communities in which they operate. As things stand the Met are unaccountable and have been for far too long. In fact increasingly the Met has appeared more akin to an organised militia intent on enforcing its writ via confrontation rather than consensus and cooperation with the public it is meant to be policing and protecting, especially young people living in low income and working class communities.
The ongoing economic crisis and the increased level of social and economic injustice it has presaged as a direct result of the government’s response is another factor in these events that cannot be ignored. The blatant and callous disregard for the human cost of the swingeing cuts to the welfare system is made worse by the lack of pain being endured by those responsible for the recession, the banks and the rich.
Law and order without justice is impossible to maintain for long in any society, and the outburst of rioting and anger London is currently witnessing will have come as no surprise to anyone living in the communities concerned.
Time and again events prove that where there is no justice there can be no peace.