LONDON, (Reuters) – British Prime Minister David Cameron, under attack over his leadership during the rioting and looting that swept English cities this week, has enlisted U.S. street crime expert William Bratton to advise the government on handling gang violence.
“I’m being hired by the British government to consult with them on the issue of gangs, gang violence and gang intervention from the American experience and to offer some advice and counsel on their experience,” Bratton told Reuters in New York.
British police flooded the streets again last night to ensure weekend drinking does not reignite the rioting that shocked Britons and sullied the country’s image a year before it hosts the Olympic Games.
Steve Kavanagh, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said 16,000 officers, instead of the usual 2,500, would remain on duty in London in their biggest peacetime deployment — a measure of the perceived public order challenge.
Other forces, including those in Nottingham, Birm-ingham and Liverpool, said they would maintain a high level of policing over the weekend, though they said they did not expect further trouble after a couple of nights of quiet.
Even in normal times, alcohol-fuelled street disorder is common across urban Britain at weekends.
Cameron, describing the four nights of looting, arson and violence, in which five people were killed, as “criminality, pure and simple”, said the initial police response had been inadequate.
His remarks drew a sharp reaction from the police service, which is facing deep cuts in numbers as part of a government austerity drive aimed at cutting the large public debt.
“The fact that politicians chose to come back is an irrelevance in terms of the tactics that were by then developing,” said Hugh Orde, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, referring to Cameron and other senior ministers who cut short their holidays after two days of mayhem at home.
Bratton, credited with curbing street crime as police chief in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, said he would help the British government develop strategies on dealing with widespread rioting and gang culture.
“The government is very interested in trying to quickly come up with strategies and plans to deal with the issues and concerns identified during these riots,” said Bratton, a former police chief and now chairman of private security firm Kroll.
A Downing Street spokesman said Cameron had spoken to Bratton on Friday, and that Bratton would join a series of meetings in the autumn, working unpaid and in a personal capacity. Bratton has worked with the British police at other times over the past 20 years.
Cameron himself has not escaped criticism. A ComRes poll for The Independent newspaper showed that 54 percent of Britons say he failed to provide leadership early enough to control the riots, while an ICM survey for The Guardian showed that only 30 percent thought Cameron responded well to the riots and 44 percent thought the opposite.