Animosity towards the police during the summer riots was higher in Hackney than in other places affected by the unrest, according to researchers involved in a major nationwide study of the disturbances.
Investigators with the Reading the Riots project said dislike of the police was especially high amongst rioters they spoke to in the borough and claimed the frequent use of ‘stop and search’ could have been a “motivating factor”.
“In Hackney it [the rioting] was determined. I sensed that the feeling was stronger, something unique here,” Guardian journalist and Reading the Riots researcher Paul Lewis told Hackney Council’s Community Safety and Social Inclusion Commission at its meeting last Thursday (12 January 2012).
“People were staying. They wanted to fight the police. It felt organised,” he added, highlighting the disturbances around the Pembury Estate and Clarence Road.
Lewis, who also covered the riots for the Guardian, and fellow researcher Marie-Aimée Brajeux, said the preoccupation with policing differed from other parts of London and the UK, where rioters were more concerned with looting.
“It’s not a simple dislike of the police,” Brajeux explained. Asked about their attitudes towards the police, rioters she interviewed had told her: “We respect the police and they have to do their job, but we don’t like the way they do it.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Sharer defended policing in Hackney: “It surprises me that [anti-police sentiment] is so strong in Hackney,” he said. “We have had some pretty good borough commanders over the last few years, and they seem to have tried to take the sting out of activities of the police.”
Chief Superintendent Richard Woolford insisted ‘stop and search’ was essential for crime prevention.
“Stop and search is something we should embrace,” he said. “It is one of the most successful policing tools we have.”
The Reading the Riots report, published jointly by the Guardian and the London School of Economics last month, reveals that 73% of rioters interviewed in London had been stopped and searched in the last 12 months. A further 85% said that policing was an ‘important’ or ‘very important’ cause of the riots.
Metropolitan police to scale back stop and search operation(The Guardian)
/ 16 January, 2012