Britain’s biggest police force plans to fill back-office roles with injured officers to boost the number of officers available for frontline duty in the wake of the riots, it was revealed today.
Boris Johnson arrives at the Home Affairs Select Committee to answer questions about the recent riots in London.
The plan, announced by London Mayor Boris Johnson, comes after the Metropolitan Police was severely criticised for not having enough officers on the streets to cope with the disorder sweeping London last month.
Outnumbered by rioters, the police was forced to allow looters to steal from shops in what became one of the largest scenes of social disobedience ever witnessed in Britain.
Giving evidence to MPs about the riots in London, the acting Scotland Yard commissioner Tim Godwin admitted: “We ran out of police officers” and added: "The thin blue line is quite thin on occassions."
Mr Johnson told the home affairs select committee that he had drawn up plans to try an increase the number of frontline officers available to the Metropolitan Police.
“One of the things we are doing is looking at getting officers who are on long term sick leave to come in and do some of these functions that are currently being done by warranted officers in order to allow the warranted officers out there on the street,” he said.
“Out of these events good must come.”
The riots in London began on Saturday 6 August and continued until the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Police increased the numbers of officers on the streets of the capital from 6,000 to 16,000 on the Tuesday evening to prevent a fourth night of rioting.
Mr Godwin, who is bidding to become the new Metropolitan Police commissioner following Sir Paul Stephenson’s departure, said he wished he had increased the number of officers sooner.
He said: “You would want the benefit of hindsight as foresight. Had I had that then I wish I had lots more police officers on duty on Sunday into Monday.”
It was also announced that of the 1,630 people charged during the riots, 83 per cent have had prior contact with the police while 77 per cent had criminal records.
The justice secretary Kenneth Clarke said that the figures highlighted a “broken penal system”.
Mr Godwin said that the statistics were “a wake up call for the criminal justice system”.
He added: “The amount of people that have previous convictions does pose questions for us and I think that we at the Met, working with the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, have got to learn from that.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said reoffending rates were "ludicrous" but that none of those involved was "beyond help".He said: “What has so much gone missing inside the criminal justice system is that the reoffending rates in the UK are ludicrous and what we end up doing is arresting and re-arresting and re-re-arresting the same people for different crimes.
"Rehabilitation...is a critical component to changing the communities we are talking about."
Mr Johnson said that the justice system must also plan for the huge numbers of extra prisoners it will receive in the wake of the riots. He added: “You cannot simply abandon them there [in prison].”
Mr Johnson also revealed that the Metropolitan Police would submit a bill for £74million to the Government for the cost of policing the riots.
It was also estimate that the cost on other parts of the country came to £50 million, meaning the total nationwide cost is £124million.
Lynne Owens, the Scotland Yard assistant commissioner in charge of policing the riots, also revealed that the forces still has more than 20,000 hours of CCTV footage to view, suggesting many more arrests, on top of the 2,343 the force has already made, are likely.