14 Mar 2012

Riots report reveals Met failed to issue ‘red alert’

The final police report into the London riots shows the failure by officers to issue a “code red” warning delayed the response to violence in Tottenham, writes Home Affairs Correspondent Simon Israel.

London riots report reveals Met failed to issue 'red alert'. (Getty)

The riots report entitled “4 days in August” states that the “phase red” instruction to mobilise all units across London on that Saturday night was not followed. The order was issued by the officer in charge of the Met’s Public Order Command.

But instead an amber alert was relayed which meant all available resources were simply identified but not activated.

The report states there was an hour’s delay before the mistake was rectified when the officer arrived in the special operations control room to discover the failure to issue the instruction.

The 145-page report also analyses what warnings were picked up following the police shooting of Mark Duggan.

There were eight pieces of intelligence recorded prior to the breakout of disorder.

It highlights one message on Twitter which was entered by an officer onto the Met’s criminal intelligence system around lunchtime on the Saturday, several hours before violence broke out.

It read: “Hearing there’s a riot in Tottenham you know or they are planning one. I hope this is the start of a new era and people start deading feds.”

But the report notes that further research by the Met’s Intelligence Bureau found that nothing had been added to the account in the following few hours.

More from Simon Israel: Could the Tottenham riots have been prevented?

The report concludes: “The overall intelligence picture was that tensions were raised and that there was an anti-police sentiment present but that there was nothing to indicate a specific threat of violence.”

But the Met accepts that its model for community engagement failed, it struggled to handle accurate intelligence, its command centre was ill-equipped to deal with managing riots and that hostility towards the practice of “stop and search” was a motivating factor.

The report contains tales from individual officers who describe facing unparalleled violence that night in Tottenham with waves of bottles, petrol bombs, and wheelie bins set alight.

There were also attempts to trap police officers. One chief inspector says: “At one point to the south there was a cry over the radio that an officer was down in a burning police car.

“I led the line south in beat duty uniform to the car in question only to discover that one of the rioters had got hold of a police radio. This was a particularly stressful moment for us all thinking that a colleague was trapped in a burning car.”

The Met’s review re-emphasises not just the need for more training, but calls for baton-round tactics to be more readily available. Its position on the use of water cannon is awaiting revised Acpo guidelines.