It’s all about Community innit?

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I previously suggested that we are rioting down the road to hell and now, all the so-called experts and media commentators start to deliver their views as to causation of the London riots.

We already have people condemning the (some say belated) police actions and warning against possible proposed robust tactics for the future. Can we really expect our police to be all cuddly and softly softly one minute and then almost paramilitary the next, and all at the whim of a society that is woefully uneducated and only raises its voice when it suits individual members of that community?

This continued talk about people feeling ‘detached from their communities’  is something of a smokescreen. A bit of a limp excuse offered up to disguise the wider issue of gang culture criminality in many of our cities. As pointed out in Panic on the Streets of Tottenham by Daz Pearce over at Anna Raccoon, it’s not “the closure of a youth club or dreaded ‘government cuts’ have caused naturally law-abiding people to snap.”

Some may not believe it, probably because it means confronting a wider problem, namely that many of these communities are policed not by law enforcement working in consent with the law-abiding, but by the criminals themselves…(

Many suggest the troubles were in some way inevitable. On the latest BBC Newsnight program it was highlighted that at least some of the blame should be placed upon the widespread ‘culture of entitlement’ in our society.

Keep telling people with nothing that the world is theirs by right, and eventually you’re going to get trouble…(@PolicingToday)

That idea may have some substance however, given the dire financial circumstances of such a wide range of families up and down the land, wouldn’t that also suggest more people should be on the streets rioting? Wouldn’t there be a larger cross-section of the community participating in the riots? The situations we have seen are not rioting, the only common purpose amongst the majority of those getting involved is opportunist criminality. The chance to get a new iPhone, iPad or pair of Nike trainers… Without paying for them!

That said, condemning the events in north London and elsewhere we would all do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. So says Nina Power of The Guardian in her article entitled There is a context to London’s riots that can’t be ignored. She (like me) suggests that, despite all the here and now sensationalism of the media machine, we would do well to examine the years of social issues that underlie many of the problems.

Images of burning buildings, cars aflame and stripped-out shops may provide spectacular fodder for a restless media, ever hungry for new stories and fresh groups to demonise, but we will understand nothing of these events if we ignore the history and the context in which they occur. (Nina power)

The BBC News have reported the Prime Minister as saying that “We needed a fightback and a fightback is under way” however, aren’t many of our politicians just saying what we as a society want to hear? Today I listened to the best part of two hours of debate in the houses of commons about the riots. During that malaise much of the comment was still far too simplistic. “We need more police”, not necessarily. “We will learn lessons and move forward”, unlikely because if we could, we probably wouldn’t have arrived at this situation in the first place.

One the 15th Sep 2010 The Guardian reported on how the government austerity measures were to be implemented, it’s all about doing more with less, apparently? You would like to hope a certain MP is actually regretting the words she used at the time but I doubt it…

“We can cut police budget without risking violent unrest” (Rt.Hon. Theresa May MP)

So many have equated the problems of the last few days to police numbers and their deployment. Although there are many failures within the hierarchy of the police service, they are wrong. No the problems are far deeper than any of us care to admit, never mind understand. Peter Osborne in The Telegraph wrote; The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom and I would have to agree. His article is well worth a read for anyone who really wants to understand the issues. But here lays one of the other important and fundamental issues behind our social decline.

Far too many people have absolutely no interest what so ever, unless the issues impact upon them personally as individuals. We are only interested in a ‘community’ that has the attributes we want or aspire to. That rings true be you a drug dealing Afro-Carribean gang Barron or a City CEO living in Sloane Square. We are mostly uninterested in the plight of others, just so long as it doesn’t impact upon our cozy existence. But woe betide when they do, we can all suddenly offer knee-jerk reaction and solutions to the problem.

I think it more than fair to say; there is no one causation for the riots, it was a combination of many factors. Today the BBC News Magazine examined ten of the most popular in… The competing arguments used to explain the riots.

What we do to prevent any future occurrence is a wholly different mater. It’s one that many will profess to have all the answers to, but few will actually be correct in their assumptions. Yes, as the majority of politicians and senior managers usually spout, there are ‘lessons to be learned’. That said, we appear to be a society that continually says it but fails to do so?

Indeed that ‘old chestnut’ of the LA Riots back in 1992, and the subsequent changes to policing attributed to Bill Bratton,  has again reared its head. The BBC have looked at… What Los Angeles can teach UK on riot control. Apparently the Prime Minister David Cameron is to consult US “supercop” Bill Bratton on how to deal with city rioting…(

“I think we are able to relate to the community a lot better now.” (Commander Smith LAPD)

In a nutshell the article points out that whilst the LAPD made subsequent and significant change to the way in which policing was delivered in the aftermath of those riots, there is no substitute for prompt and robust police action in the initial stages… At least not if your aim is to regain control and protect life and property.

Obviously the recent events in the UK have also attracted debate and comment amongst police officers further afield. In this vein I noted a thread in the Thin Blue Line Facebook Forum from the USA which asked; How many of you are trained to deal with riot situations like the ones in the UK?

It was interesting to note, despite some of the almost expected Gung Ho genre of comments, very few respondents appeared to have received any adequate training that would equip them to effectively deal with such events. Perhaps our politicians should be a little circumspect as to which ‘experts’ they consult?

I believe that due to our inherent individualism, when you look deeper into the term ‘community’ it is (unfortunately) mostly an organisational and social myth. Although it may well be one that is fundamentally important to our society, in real terms it is non-existent in may respects, despite the myriad of official documents and organisational processes lording the ethos! 

One thought on “It’s all about Community innit?

  1. Great post Dave – key point for me “We are only interested in a ‘community’ that has the attributes we want or aspire to. …. We are mostly uninterested in the plight of others, just so long as it doesn’t impact upon our cozy existence. But woe betide when they do, we can all suddenly offer knee-jerk reaction and solutions to the problem”


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