New police tactics

March 20, 2012, 3:41 PM GMT+0

Majority of Brits support using water cannon and CS gas in riots; 21% support use of firearms

When considering mass disorder similar to the 2011 riots, the majority of Britons would support the Met using security tactics such as water cannon, mounted police and tear gas. One in five would even support the use of firearms and live ammunition, our poll shows.

A Scotland Yard review into last summer's riots says the Metropolitan Police are hoping to develop more "assertive tactics" to tackle disorder, and are considering the use of CS gas, water canon or Taser stun guns in future.

  • A significant majority (89%) support the use of water cannon in riots, while 8% say police should not use them
  • 87% support mounted police, while 10% oppose it
  • 68% say tear gas is acceptable, while 26% say it is not
  • 63% think police should be able to use Tasers, 29% say they should not
  • 52% support the use of plastic bullets, while 40% do not
  • 1 in 5 people (21%) support police using firearms/live ammunition in riots while more than three times this amount (71%) do not support this tactic

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley has said "I want to do everything possible to help prevent the MPS, and more importantly Londoners, from being in that position again."

Effectiveness of water cannons

Water cannon have been recognised by the report as an effective tactic to disperse and distance aggressors, but they have been met with doubts from some senior officers. In regards to August riots, the report states that water cannon "would have been considered as a tactical option during this disorder," while officers say it is unlikely that it would have been a practical option owing to the speed and agility of the riots.

Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe told the BBC that water cannon are "not the answer" and that he was yet to be persuaded of their benefits. "I am not a passionate zealot for this" explained Mr Hogan-Howe. "These things are expensive, most of the time they just sit there doing nothing."

He said arming riot police with live ammunition was also not a foreseeable option, but he acknowledges that the review of MPA tactics was necessary and the police had to have an "open mind."

"The principal thing we have looked at is to make sure we have the right resources available and we are able to mobilise them," he said.

See the full details and results here