Daniel Deme / EPA
Police officers patrol the streets of Camden, in north London, on Monday. An extra 10,000 officers were brought in from other parts of the country to help to quell rioting and looting that engulfed parts of the capital.
By Heather Lacy, NBC News assignment editor
LONDON - We’ve been on five-day roller-coaster here in the NBC News London bureau, what with riots and looting breaking out across the capital and the country.
We’re all wondering if the “criminality pure and simple,” as Prime Minister David Cameron put it, will pop up again, or if the uneasy calm we have now will hold.
Everyone in the newsroom has been discussing the recent violence, the worst this country has seen in three decades. Why would people set fire to stores, cars and homes, looting, wounding, killing and destroying property as they go? Who could do this? How did the police
fail to bring order for days?
As everyone in the newsroom debated the use of force – whether to use rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons, Tasers, even bean-bag guns – I wondered why they were wasting their breath.
“If your cops had guns, day number 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this, it would NOT have happened!” I said at a recent meeting.
People stopped talking and looked at me. A couple giggled. Those who know me weren’t too horrified, but others stared at me like I’d just drop-kicked a puppy.
I’m a relatively recent London implant, having moved from Texas a few years back. I’m surrounded mostly by Brits who are usually amused and occasionally appalled at some of my comments.
“In fact, why are we even talking about this?” I asked. “A couple batons aren’t gonna do the trick when the rioters have Molotov cocktails, bricks and knifes, and they outnumber the police.”
When I first moved here I was surprised when I discovered that “bobbies on the beat” (cops on the street) don’t carry guns. Apparently, when the Metropolitan Police Service was founded they thought arming the officers would scare the public. How quaint, I thought.
There is an armed contingent, the Authorised Firearms Officers, which makes up about a third of the Met’s numbers, but they don’t patrol routinely and are only called in when needed. And getting a firearms certificate as a private citizen is very difficult, if not impossible, unless you live in the countryside.
Now, I’m not suggesting police just go out and start capping people carte blanche, but I can assure you those brave and defiant “hooded youths” (as they were described by many a British broadcaster) would not have been so brave or defiant if they had a lethal weapon pointed at them.
Yes, there’s an argument for unarmed police, and yes the British police do have an armed unit, but I’m not going to get into the minutiae. I just want to know, what’s so bad about a show of force in the form of a gun?
I mean, you don’t see anything like this kicking off in Texas, do you?