It is no doubt a testament to Hampshire Constabulary’s professionalism and capability that its public support unit has been drafted in to help the Metropolitan Police cope with the outbreaks of rioting across London.
But while we take reassurance from the force’s announcement that policing in this county will not be affected by any support given to the operation in the capital, it cannot be denied that our police have enough on their plate to cope with at the moment.
While budget cuts are being imposed on forces across the country, and chief constables look to juggle resources to preserve as much front-line policing as possible, unexpected – and unexpectedly serious – events such as these riots show why cutting public services back to the bare minimum comes with many potential pitfalls.
Despite this, it is evidently right for police forces to help out their colleagues in the Met where they can.
The violence that has exploded in the last three days is inexcusable and has clearly become an excuse for looting and theft.
Any legitimate grievance over the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham – and there are questions about the death which need to be answered – which triggered the demonstrations is in danger of being lost as youths rampage across several London boroughs. Genuine concerns over the events that led to Mr Duggan’s death are being lost in a tide of smashed windows, burning cars and burgled shops, as thousands of yobs turn high streets into no-go zones.
Those responsible must be caught and brought to justice, and fast, because to do otherwise would be to risk even more civil unrest spreading across the country.
For that reason alone, it is right that the Hampshire officers have been deployed to London. And while the prospect of similar worrying scenes is a long way from being likely to happen on our streets, it is good to know that local police would be able to call in the favour of reinforcements in return.