The number of police on London’s streets tonight will hit 16,000, with the Steve Kavanagh, a senior Met officer, warning of possible “mass disorder” to come.
I have just returned from a press conference with Kavanagh, the deputy assistant commissioner, and Simon Foy, the man leading the criminal investigation. We are starting to get a clearer picture of what happened across London on Monday night, and have learned that a man shot in Croydon last night during the violence there has now died.
Kavanagh’s main message was that the Met had not failed, but had been “stretched to an unprecedented level”. He claimed the intensity and scale of the violence, coupled with the rioters’ speed of movement, had never been seen before in the UK, or even Europe.
But he also offered an apology, of sorts:
This is an apology for people to wake up and see buildings alighty. It is an apology for people to wake up and see those scenes.
The Met held discussions overnight about the tactics that could be used: tear gas, water cannon and baton rounds were all discussed. The use of the army and curfews are a decision for politicians to make, however, not the police.
Kavanagh said more aggressive tactics were available, but would only be used as a last resort. “We don’t want to throw away years of community policing,” he warned, saying that trust in the police could be badly damage by using such tactics, especially if young people were hurt by them (one rioter arrested last night was 11 years old).
There are already rumours of violence starting in parts of London this afternoon. The 16,000 officers have been available since midday, so the police will hope they catch it in time if these rumours prove true. But for most Londoners it will be a case of battening down the hatches and checking where their children are.