London's Deputy Mayor On City's Response To Riots
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
For more on the riots, we turn now to Kit Malthouse. He's the deputy mayor of London, and he's the chair of the police authority, which oversees the city police department. Welcome to the program.
KIT MALTHOUSE: Thanks, Michele.
NORRIS: Now, we understand the city is bracing itself for another round of violence, and we hear the police are considering using plastic bullets against rioters if necessary. Do you think that's a good idea?
MALTHOUSE: Well, I don't know if considering is the right characterization. We have what we call baton rounds, or plastic bullets, in our armory to use. They've never been used on the British mainland. They've only been used in Northern Ireland thus far in our history. I think it would be a big Rubicon to cross to get that far. The other thing to bear in mind, of course, is they're only suitable in particular situations where you're dispersing large crowds, and these incidents have been often quite small crowds of maybe up to two or 300 people.
NORRIS: The mayor of London was in Clapham Junction today, and he was heckled when he actually tried to address people in the area. Before we go on, I just want to give you an opportunity to hear this. Stay tuned. Let's listen.
BORIS JOHNSON: Tonight...
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You talk about robust policing.
WOMAN: What does that actually mean?
JOHNSON: Tonight, we are going to have a huge number of police on the streets, and we -honestly, I'm...
WOMAN: Where were they? At 5 o'clock, we knew they were going to hit, and no one was here. I was in the salon...
NORRIS: He was repeatedly heckled there. Are you worried in some way that officials who are responsible for bringing calm to the city are losing a bit of credibility, not just from the rioters, but also from the people who are impacted by all this unrest?
MALTHOUSE: The point about it is is that when you're mayor of a city like London, your job is to be there in the bad times as well as the good times, and that means that often you are a lighting rod for people's anger about things that have gone wrong in the city. And the mayor's job is to absorb that anger, swallow it up, and be the object of that anger because people want him to be, but then also put in place plans to rectify things, to rebuild neighborhoods and show Londoners the way out of what has been a dark incident.
NORRIS: You know, I'm curious about your thoughts on what's motivated people. Why people would take to the streets. And NBC asked a young man why he would destroy his own community, and he told a reporter: Well, you wouldn't be talking to me right now if we didn't riot, would you? What do you know about what's actually motivating the rioters?
MALTHOUSE: Well, there's also a lot of...
NORRIS: Is it just the killing of this young black man, or is it...
MALTHOUSE: ...rationalization of criminal activity, and I think that's fundamentally what it is. It is criminal activity, pure and simple. It's driven by greed, avarice and a desire to just grab other people's property. I think you can try and confect some kind of complicated sociological argument about people's motivations for that criminality, but I think that's getting them off the hook. There is no excuse for it, absolutely none whatsoever.
NORRIS: Did you understand or did others in the city understand that the city was this much of a powder keg? That it might kick off all over the city like this?
MALTHOUSE: Well, to be honest, we were a little surprised about the - well, quite a lot surprise, actually, about the level of the violence. It goes without saying that we were unprepared for the scale of the problem. We've put more police officers on last night than we had on on Saturday or Sunday, and we will have even more on tonight to make sure that we deal with this problem. It's just taken us a bit of time to mobilize, I'm afraid.
NORRIS: You know, by cracking down on a lot of the young people who were starting the fires and who were overturning cars and are creating this violence on the streets of London, if the police cracked down on them, that affects the relationship that young people have with the police going forward. Are you concerned about the future of the city and young people developing something close to hatred for the police that need to clamp down on the rioters in order to bring control to the city?
MALTHOUSE: Having said that, I would just say that there are hundreds of thousands of young people in this city who do not do these things, who are right thinking, who plan for the future, work hard at school, who want to be decent human beings. And we need to make sure we have a good relationship with them rather than with these criminals.
NORRIS: Kit Malthouse is the deputy mayor of London. He's also the chair of the police authority there. Mr. Malthouse, thank you very much for your time.
MALTHOUSE: Thank you.
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