CS Gas and Water Cannons to Tackle Rioters

Review of last summer's riots by the Metropolitan Police

A Metropolitan Police review into last August's London wide riots has suggested tougher approaches are needed to deal with public order.

Using CS gas to disperse troublemakers is being considered and the force is already looking into buying water cannon, while baton rounds are being made more readily available.

The Scotland Yard report 'Four Days in August', says the Met is developing more "assertive tactics" to tackle disorder.

Water cannon have been used in Northern Ireland but never in Britain and the review suggests it is "widely recognised as an effective tactic to disperse and distance aggressors".

CS smoke as a recognised "last resort" tactic to disperse groups during serious disorder.

The gas is similar to tear gas but has not been used in public order situations in Britain and has "limitations" including the risk to innocent people.

It could also alter the mood of the crowd and damage community confidence, the review suggests.

Some people felt police failed to help them or prevent properties being destroyed during the riots.

The review says the perceived police failings were largely down to not having enough officers on the ground. However, it acknowledges that more "flexible and dynamic" policing methods are needed.

The Met is in discussions regarding the potential purchase of water cannon vehicles - at a cost of about £1m - to be based regionally in England and Wales and awaits the publication of Association of Chief Police Officers guidelines on the issue next year.

However, Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has expressed doubts about their effectiveness and said their use must be a political decision.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said: "Having faced unprecedented challenge we are determined to do all we can to improve. Within the pages of this report are a number of areas the Met can do better. The purpose of the review was to identify these and to act upon them - which we are already doing.

"What I hope isn't lost amongst the public's reading of our detailed analysis is the extreme situation and the individual acts of heroism that took place across London. The summer was without precedent and as a result stretched the MPS beyond all anticipated capability. However I accept this will be of little comfort for those who were victim to the violence, looting and arson.

"I want to do everything possible to help prevent the MPS, and more importantly Londoners, from being in that position again. These recommendations, and the host of changes we have already made, such as Haringey borough having an additional 50 officers and improvements to our mobilisation procedures, will help us to do this."

March 14, 2012