police tape

Police on Tottenham riot frontline speak

Friday, March 23, 2012
3.32 PM

Officers on the frontline during last summer’s riots have painted a grim picture of the “pressure cooker of violence” which erupted in Tottenham.

The final riots report, which was released last week, includes a number of first-hand accounts from police officers who found themselves under attack from uncontrollable crowds.

They paint a picture of an impossible battle in a “war zone” which – despite their best efforts – the police were unlikely to win.

Inspector Chris Bethel, who was in charge of the second territorial support unit assigned to Tottenham on the first night, said: “These officers were not only the front line, they were the last line.

“There was no-one to rescue them if they had been overwhelmed – and they knew that.”

Ground commander Ch Insp Graham Dean described it as a “pressure cooker of violence” in which officers had to continue pushing forward while their injured colleagues were carried past.

Other accounts describe watching rioters brazenly walk up to officers and “literally drop burning debris” on them, while another describes the “drum beat” of missiles hitting their vehicle as they sped away from the large crowd.

But officers also spoke of their dismay at the response from people who believed they had not done enough to stop the riots.

Ch Insp Ade Adelekan said: “I feel very saddened, almost to the point of resignation, that some reports suggest we stood by and did nothing whilst Tottenham burned. This is certainly not the case. I stood shoulder to shoulder with my officers throughout the night while they risked their lives in an attempt to quell disorder that was not instigated by them.”

The Met’s public order strategic commander Simon Pountain also defended his officers, saying: “It is at times like this that we expect our officers to step up to the plate, and they did.

“They performed extensive tours of duty – often more than 24 hours – under the most intense pressure they have ever faced.”