It is now two weeks since the riots. On the day that significant disorder broke out in Wolverhampton, I was out on the ground, witnessing at first hand the damage being caused, the violence being used towards officers and the looting of the shops that were deliberately targeted for the goods that were on display. We were able to bring the situation under control due to some heroic actions from our officers, relatively quickly, and with thankfully little injury to the public or police. As is always the way in such events, there were moments of extreme frustration, as we had to move officers to protect and contain locations, that we couldn’t protect everything, and extreme satisfaction, as we started to lock the offenders up and force the rioters out of the city.
Throughout the course of the day I witnessed some acts of real bravery from officers. As always I was very proud to be part of the Police force that stood in front on the offenders, took the missiles off them, stopped them inflicting the type of damage that they clearly had in mind, and then set about locking them up.
At one stage I was with a group of Special Constables and PCSOs, they were stood in a line in front of the new glass bus station in Wolverhampton, with the rioters coming towards them. They are not public order trained, but they wanted to be out, protecting the community they work in. We replaced them with trained officers in protective kit as soon as we could, but they stood, without question, in the line of fire whilst we did it.
Throughout the day I was using social media and Twitter in particular to update the people of Wolverhampton about what was going on. That was in fact what this blog was going to be about but I will cover that in a later post. Suffice to say that twitter and the social media users of Wolverhampton were invaluable throughout. Rumours were quashed, facts were distributed, and people slept better once they were reassured that it was under control.
The day after the riots, the people of Wolverhampton turned out to clean their own city centre up. They were brilliant and the pride they showed in the area put the rioters to shame. I went out and spoke to the staff in the shops that had been damaged and members of the public. The overwhelming message was that they were determined to press on and not be beaten by the criminals involved in the disorder. Wolverhampton is full of great people, and we saw the best of them the day after we had seen the worst.
In the time since the disorder, it is fair to say that we have been overwhelmed by the messages of support we have had from the public. We have had cards, cakes and chocolate delivered to the police station. I have had countless officers relaying stories to me of being stopped while they are on patrol and thanked by people. We are very grateful for the support we have received from ordinary people; genuine thanks for that.
The investigation has been in full flow since the disorder, and we have seen large numbers arrested and prosecuted. I am pleased that we have been able to do this quickly, as it sends a clear message to those involved; if you are involved in this type of offence, we will come for you, and won’t stop until we have you.
Mark Payne is a Superintendent with the West Midlands Police. He is based at Wolverhampton, responsible for managing response to crime and operations in the city.