This morning, in a room packed full of Tottenham residents, religious leaders and local schoolchildren, the Metropolitan Police failed to turn up to support a key inquiry into the riots and managed to lose one of the last pieces of respect held for them by one of the communities ravaged by last year’s disturbances.
The media, who had originally been invited to cover the launch of an excellent report by London Citizens, honed in on the anger directed at the Police from priests, youth workers and the local MP David Lammy. Even the local Sainsbury’s had a representative at the event which was meant to bring together all the key players in the community.
But this no-show by the police was not a miscommunication. The Borough Commander’s excuse of ‘operational commitments’, was, as David Lammy put it, “a strategic mistake”. She was also unable to send anyone else from the Police. When 85% of rioters interviewed by The Guardian point to ‘policing’ as a cause of the riots and a third of people interviewed by London Citizen’s Inquiry said that ‘police management’ was to blame for the unrest, the Met’s conspicuous absence looks particularly foolish.
The report by London Citizen’s looks promising. It has brought together the Council and local business to pledge action on joblessness and community cohesion. What will continue to trouble Tottenham’s residents is the inability of both the Metropolitan Police and the Conservative Government to get to grips with the problems facing some of Britain’s most impoverished communities. And, when the summer holidays come around again this year, the Police – who did have time to stop and search 73% of the rioters in the year before the unrest – may well be troubled too.