In an extended interview with Inside Croydon columnist ANDREW PELLING, fitted in between a command meeting and maintaining high profile policing, Croydon’s Acting Borough Commander Jo Oakley defends the police’s performance in Monday’s riots
With an ICM poll in The Guardian this morning showing that the public back the police over the politicians in the handling of the riots, Detective Superintendent Oakley stresses that her officers conducted the highest number of arrests in London.
“My officers were very pro-active,” Oakley said. “We did not stand by and every Croydon officer was deployed, including every possible CID officer put into uniform. All remote Safer Neighbourhood Teams were called upon.”
Croydon’s police were stretched beyond reason, according to Oakley. There were too many calls, “too far out; from north to south, from Upper Norwood to Coulsdon”.
She had only praise for her officers who, without anything beyond normal protective gear and many without shields, withstood missiles that she claims included bricks and petrol bombs. It was police officers, she states, who stood bravely by the burning and crumbling building to catch Monika Konczyk jumping to save her life in the iconic moment of Croydon 8/8.
The Acting Borough Commander’s says that her “No1 priority is public safety”, and that in this respect the night was a success. She says she has already challenged one politician privately to say otherwise.
Oakley entirely contradicts eyewitness reports from reporters, residents and shopkeepers to Inside Croydon that the police abandoned London Road during the riots. She had policed there, she says. It was just that “the number of incidents in tandem on the night” that made the police’s task impossible, with the “north policed as best as we could”.
Oakley says that the police had been thoroughly attentive to London Road by warning traders comprehensively from 9am on Monday morning. This work was done despite intelligence pointing to Croydon town centre and the Purley Way being the intended focus of criminal activity.
Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks has spoken of his amazement at the removal of the Borough Commander Adrian Roberts at such a sensitive time to undertake strategic work for Scotland Yard. Oakley defends this decision, saying that Roberts was used as “a corporate resource”.
Oakley has her own strong attachment to the borough. “I know Croydon very well,” she said, having been a long-term resident who has been in her senior post for a year and who had done an extended tour at Croydon before that.
The Acting Borough Commander confirmed that both Croydon police and Croydon Council asked for extra police from that Monday morning before the riot. The council itself “maximised the resources it could provide to the police”, the Acting Commander said. But according to Oakley, Croydon was told resources could not be made available because of disturbances elsewhere in London.
Asked whether Croydon is not given enough police officers by the Met, Oakley’s answer was that Croydon is “a very demanding borough”.
- Croydon 8/8: Borough’s top cop was called away before riots (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon 8/8: Do you agree with Cameron on policing the riots? (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon was vulnerable after being short-changed for decades (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon 8/8: Council chief admits mistakes were made (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon 8/8: Local Tamils say “We have been doubly let down” (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon burns as looters storm the Whitgift Centre (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon 8/8: Eyewitnesses ask questions of police approach (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon leads the way again: this time in police cut backs (insidecroydon.com)