The Metropolitan Police of London was unable to cope with extensive city-wide
rioting this week because it failed to prepare itself for such a scenario,
former senior Israeli police officers told The Jerusalem Post on
“If I’m commanding police forces during a riot, and I see
rioters breaking into stores and emptying them out, and setting parked cars on
fire, the only order I know to give is to storm the rioters, take them into
custody, and use riot dispersal means if necessary,” said Micky Levi, who
commanded the Jerusalem police district from 2000 and 2003.
Jewish community shocked and appalled by UK riots
prepare for the the worst as London riots
tenure, Levi oversaw riot-response operations in the capital on numerous
occasions – from mass Palestinian disturbances, to soccer
“Police in London were caught off guard by the scope of the
violence. If you are not on guard and wound up like a spring – physically,
mentally, and operationally, your organization goes to sleep,” Levi
“A police force needs to be on standby, and have the correct
equipment and personnel in place.”
Another key aspect missing from a
successful riot-response policy is intelligence, Levi said.
“It does not
look like the riots were completely spontaneous,” he said. “Field intelligence
was missing, and this is a crucial part of preparations.”
“An important term here is ‘evaluation.’ This refers to meetings we hold in
which commanders brainstorm various scenarios and plan out how to mobilize the
forces at their disposal. My own view is that London police did not evaluate
that the riots would spread to places that are not necessarily home to poorer
But former Police commissioner Insp.-Gen. Assaf
Hefetz, who headed the Israel Police from 1994 to 1997, stressed that most
police forces in the world – including the Israel Police – encounter major
difficulties when trying to cope with incidents on the scale seen in London this
“The guiding principle should be flexibility and ability to
concentrate forces. Because the police is widely spread out in London, it has to
allow for the possibility of focusing forces in specific areas, and prevent the
snow ball from rolling off the top of the mountain.
Most police forces
have failed to do this, including our own force,” Hefetz said, noting the 2008
Yom Kippur riots in Acre as an example of a police response that was too slow to
prevent mass disturbances.
“Most police forces in the world don’t prepare
correctly and don’t make the correct decisions in time. You need quick
deployment, quick decisions and updated intelligence.
Police in London
have only now decided to call in bigger forces. They should have done that
immediately,” he said.
“If you don’t respond quickly to incidents such as
those in London, they can quickly spin out of control. A handful of rioters can
be joined by hundreds, and then thousands of others,” the former police chief
said. “In such cases, calling in the army is not a shameful decision,” he
Cmdr. (ret.) Yaakov Borovsky, who headed the northern police
district from 2001 to 2004, and who held senior operational planning posts
beforehand, said, “Police in London didn’t get ready for the big scenario. They
were ready for small situations like a soccer game. For the big scenarios, you
need to create the ability to find out who is leading the violence on the ground
[and arrest them].”
“There was no wave of arrests, and officers lacked
any kind of offensive equipment.
All I saw was defensive
When you don’t take these steps, you’re inviting more
violence,” he added.
Borovsky said the Israel Police has mapped out five
to six centers of potential massdisturbance zones in the country – involving
thousands of potential rioters, which could erupt simultaneously – and has
trained its districts to speedily mobilize large numbers of forces to the flash
“When you see a failure on the ground, it means that prior
thought and preparations were absent,” he concluded.