Riots: Police to step up monitoring of Twitter ahead of Olympics
PUBLISHED March 14, 2012
A comprehensive review of the disorder in August by the Metropolitan Police says that gangs were using the internet and other digital communication, such as BlackBerry Messenger, to "co-ordinate widespread crime".
But its officers were unable to keep track of the messages, and did not have the staff or technology to capture them for evidence.
The Met also admits it could have done more online to dispel rumours and give out accurate information to worried residents as the riots spread.
As a result, it plans to invest in technology that can analyse social media as well as setting up dedicated Twitter accounts for all 32 boroughs.
The Home Office is also funding a project "to develop the use of social media intelligence technology ahead of the Olympic Games, including relevant training.
"Consideration will then be given to extending this work after the games to developing a wider national system."
In a foreword to the report, Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner, states: "I cannot conceive that there is a single person in this country who was not affected in some way by the events of last August."
It contains dozens of recommendations for future improvements to public order policing as well as engagement with communities.
The study says that the number of riot police is to be increased substantially and that plain clothes officers will be deployed during disturbances to make arrests.
It agrees that baton rounds are a "viable tactic" to quell disorder, and may become "more readily available across London", but they were not used last August because of fears it could lead to gangs retaliating with guns.
Water cannon may be valuable in a "few rare situations" but would not have helped during the fast-moving riots across the capital, while CS smoke is also being considered for future use.
The report says the subsequent investigation into 4,000 offences has "underlined the vital importance of CCTV evidence", and each borough is to be equipped with a proper viewing facility and trained staff. Thousands of hours of footage of the riots have still not been viewed.