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UK RIOTS LATEST: Norfolk chief constable defends police tactics

Norfolk Chief Constable Phil Gormley. Photo: Andy Darnell

Norfolk Chief Constable Phil Gormley. Photo: Andy Darnell

Archant © 2011

The chief constable of Norfolk last night defended the police's response to the riots and violence which have swept the UK and praised people in the county for their support of the constabulary.

While Norfolk has not seen the civil unrest which has happened in many other cities, specialist officers from Norfolk have helped out at ‘flashpoint’ areas including London and Birmingham.

The government has come under increasing pressure not to make swingeing cuts to police force funding in the wake of the riots, which were sparked after Mark Duggan, 29, was shot by police in Tottenham, London, last Thursday.

But chief constable Phil Gormley said the priority was on restoring order rather than counting the financial cost and defended the way the police responded to the “unprecedented” civil unrest.

He said the service had “responded magnificently” to counteract “the lawlessness of a mindless minority” and revealed Norfolk had sent specially trained police support officers to Birmingham as well as to London.

He said: “Costs are being monitored but are not the first consideration – the priority is to concentrate on restoring order in our major cities and maintaining peace and tranquillity in this county. Then we can try to understand how to prevent it happening again and how to control it if it reoccurs.”

On criticism over police tactics, he said: “There will always be those who criticise and tell us what we should have done and how we should have done it and we accept that accountability. In the recent past we have been accused of being too heavy handed or too soft in equal measure.

“The priority in any operation will be to preserve life ahead of protecting property. Each arrest in a public order situation will remove at least one and usually two officers from the frontline and creates prisoner handling and transport issues.

“Given the scale and intensity of the violence officers faced, it was necessary to prioritise the saving of life with a second phase of arrests to follow – as we are now witnessing – once the immediate threat to life had been averted.”

He added that he would not want British police to copy United States-stile policing tactics.

He said: “New York is geographically smaller. The New York Police Department has more police officers than the Metropolitan Police. In 2009/10 the New York Police shot 93 New York citizens, while speaking to colleagues in London in the last three years the Metropolitan Police has shot six people.

“One can only speculate as to the level of disorder London would have seen if the Metropolitan Police were to replicate NYPD’s approach to the use of lethal force.”

And he praised people in Norfolk for their support of the constabulary. He said: “We are fortunate to live in one of the safest areas of the country.

“Our aim has been to reassure the public with sensible visible policing that says ‘business as usual’ whilst providing effective support to colleagues in other areas.

“I’ve joined patrols in the county and my sense from the public is one of genuine gratitude for what we are doing. We’ve received numerous messages of support, many from the social media networks that we’ve been using to counteract some of the false rumours that have circulated.

“I am very grateful for all that support. We’ll continue to work to deliver the best possible policing service with whatever resources politicians make available to us. Collaborating with our partners in Suffolk is helping both forces to achieve efficiencies to minimise the inevitable impact on the frontline.”

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