LONDON – Thousands of extra police officers were stationed on Britain’s streets, as the country faced its first weekend since riots raged through the country’s suburbs and town centers, leaving a scarred landscape of broken glass and torched buildings.
Police in London, which saw the worst violence, have charged almost 700 people with violence, disorder and looting, and the city’s mayor said Londoners wanted to see tough sentences handed out to the guilty. Hundreds of stores were looted, buildings were set ablaze and five people died amid the mayhem that broke out Saturday in London but then spread out across England over four nights.
Police, meanwhile, hit back Friday against claims they were too soft in their initial response to the disorder.
Prime Minister David Cameron said officers had been overwhelmed at first, outmaneuvered by mobile gangs of rioters. He said “far too few police were deployed onto the streets. And the tactics they were using weren’t working.”
That changed Tuesday, when 16,000 officers were out on London’s streets – almost three times the number of the night before. Cameron said the extra officers will remain on patrol through the weekend.
Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, acknowledged that police had faced “an unprecedented situation, unique circumstances” – but said it was police themselves, rather than “political interference,” that got the situation under control.
“The more robust policing tactics you saw were not a function of political interference,” he told the BBC. “They were a function of the numbers being available to allow the chief constables to change their tactics.”
Cameron vowed “swift justice” for perpetrators, and courts were struggling to cope with a flood of defendants.
Across the country, more than 1,700 people have been arrested.