POLICE officers need to be able to take a harder line on rioters, a former security minister has warned.
Admiral Lord West, who was head of the Royal Navy and a security chief for the Labour government, said: ‘The police need to be able to be more robust. We need to take a zero-tolerance line to stop this.
‘All actions recently have been to penalise police for using too much force in protests.
‘Now they seem to be in a tough position with how much action to take. They haven’t been able to get to grips with the situation.
‘We need to flood the streets with police and make sure they go flat down to make sure this trouble stops.
‘I do not condone a thuggish police or a dreadfully authoritarian police force but we do need to support them because otherwise we’ll get what we ask for.’
Lord West, who now lives in Hackney, close to where riots have broken out, also called for tougher sentences for looters.
He said: ‘There are obviously a lot of complex reasons at play here but it does seem to be largely criminals breaking into JD Sports, mobile phone shops and off-licences.
‘We need to make sure we get these people through the courts quickly and not be soft with sentencing so these people know they can not get away with this.’
There have been calls for the army and navy to help the police, but the Ministry of Defence said it has had no orders yet.
Lord West said: ‘At this stage I don’t think there is any need for military action, we just need more police on the streets.’