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Vaz: Police's riot tactics failed

The riots that spread across English cities this summer might have been avoided if police had "appreciated the magnitude of the task", the head of a Commons committee has said.

Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, called for a "rapid improvement in police training to deal with public disorder", saying that for those who lost their homes and businesses "the state effectively ceased to exist".

The perception that police had lost control of the streets was the single most important reason why this summer's violence and looting spread, the committee's report into public order policing said.

Mr Vaz said: "Individual police officers acted with great bravery, and we commend them for their actions. However, in London and other areas, in contrast with the effectiveness of police responses in some towns and cities, there was a failure of police tactics. This situation might have been avoided had police appreciated the magnitude of the task."

He continued: "For those who lost their homes and businesses, the state effectively ceased to exist - sometimes for hours at a time. This is an utterly unacceptable situation and should never occur again. We must ensure these innocent bystanders receive the payments they are entitled to under the Riot (Damages) Act."

His comments come after Home Secretary Theresa May called for people to stop making excuses for those involved, saying that August's riots were simply about money and "instant gratification".

The committee's report found the operation to police the disorder in many towns and cities, and especially in London, was flawed. Forces were not quick enough in flooding the streets with officers, there was no system to give businesses in areas affected by the riots early and consistent advice on what to do, and the arrangements for loaning officers from one force to another need to be reviewed, it said.

In the future, a "strong police presence should also have a deterrent effect on those opportunists considering joining in the disorder", the report said.

It added: "The single most important reason why the disorder spread was the perception, relayed by television as well as new social media, that in some areas the police had lost control of the streets."

The riots broke out in Tottenham, north London, on August 6, following the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan, 29. It then spread to other parts of the capital and other English cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester and Salford. But the committee's report said the specific causes behind the riots were still unknown.

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