A senior police chief admitted last night that Croydon was left virtually defenceless on 8/8, despite the authorities warning local traders of possible trouble since 9am that morning. There were so few police available in Croydon that residents off London Road, when they called 999 asking for protection, were told that they should defend themselves.
Chief Inspector Mark Nanji told a public meeting of young residents from London Road that Croydon had less than 100 police officers were available on the streets to deal with the riots, from its total force of nearly 700 officers.
Those officers put on to the streets included, Nanji said, anyone from the police station who could wear a uniform.
Nanji praised the outstanding bravery of his officers, none of whom, he said, had riot training.
Nanji expressed his concern about the speed of response to his calls for more police from the 2,000 officers held back in reserve in London. Reinforcements did not begin to arrive in Croydon until more than two hours after the start of the rioting outside West Croydon station.
A police officer from the audience at the meeting confirmed CI Nanji’s observations, claiming that police lives would have been at risk if an early advance had been made into London Road.
Nanji denied that there a strategy to abandon London Road to the rioters, saying that “it was just the way it evolved”. He said that the police held their ground on the High Street so to protect people there.
Nanji claimed that most of the rioters “will get a knock on the door”.
Malcolm Wicks, Croydon North’s MP, was also at the meeting. His previous requests for details of the number of officers on duty in Croydon on that infamous night had been refused on the basis that “operational matters” could not be divulged.
Wicks repeated his call for an independent inquiry into what happened “minute by minute” on 8/8 and into what preparations the council and the police made for the expected civil unrest. Nanji told the meeting that there would be a Met inquiry into the London riots that would take some considerable time under the chairmanship of the now departing Borough Commander, Adrian Roberts.
Despite police intelligence over the preceding weekend that some of those planning to riot in Croydon wanted to kill a police officer, Roberts was called away from Croydon on 8/8 to work at Scotland Yard, leaving on the ground control on the night to his deputy Jo Oakley. Both of Croydon’s senior coppers seem to have been sidelined in the past month, with Hounslow’s deputy borough commander Paul Martin being brought in to Croydon with effective tactical control. It is not yet clear whether Martin will succeed Roberts when he moves later this month on to Olympic security duties.
At Thursday’s meeting, Wicks again said that his constituents were abandoned on 8/8. He said that residents at Zodiac Court, afraid for their lives, were told to protect themselves when they rang 999 for help.
Bashford said that she had taken notes of all comments that were made and that Barwell would be very interested in them all.
Croydon Council is to hold an emergency debate about policing in the borough at the Town Hall next Wednesday. Croydon is to lose six police sergeants from its Safer Neighbourhood Teams – a bigger cut than any other borough in the capital, a move by the London Mayor’s office which received tacit acceptance from Croydon’s ruling Tory group until the events of 8/8, although the proposal has been opposed by more than 90 per cent of Inside Croydon readers.
- MP Wicks renews demand for urgent inquiry into Croydon riots (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon 8/8: Borough’s top cop was called away before riots (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon police chief says her force was overstretched (insidecroydon.com)
- Rioters “wanted to kill a police officer” claims Commander (insidecroydon.com)