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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Police officers left “directionless” during riots due to equipment failure


Equipment shortages together with failings in the Airwave digital radio network led to police officers being left "directionless" during this summer’s riots, a highly-critical leaked report has said.

The Police Federation review, which was leaked to the Observer, revealed that the Police National Information Co-ordination Centre, the body set up to co-ordinate the response to a national emergency, was ineffective for the "first 48 hours of the disturbance".
During that period, the violence spread from London across the country. But rank-and-file police officers felt that severe communication failures due to chronic problems with the hi-tech digital Airwave radio network, particularly in London, had left some of them “directionless".
Such communications failings were one reason as to why officers were "always approximately half an hour behind the rioters" and partly explained why they kept arriving at areas from where the disorder had moved on, the report said.
Frontline police had to use their own mobile phones during the August riots after the official radio system collapsed and some forces lost control of the situation to the extent that they had no idea how many officers were on duty. The Federation now wants a review into why the multibillion-pound radio communication system, used by the police and other emergency services, collapsed, leaving officers to rely on their own devices.
The Airwave network was supposed to improve the way emergency services in London responded to a crisis after damning criticism for communication failures following the 7 July bombings in 2005. In March the Home Office announced it was making a £39 million investment in Airwave to increase the capability of the system in time for the 2012 Games.
The findings have been submitted to the ongoing review into public order policing, which was announced in the aftermath of the riots.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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