David Lammy condemns police for failing to show up at riots meeting

Tottenham MP expresses sadness that senior officers did not attend meeting aimed at 'rebuilding relations' following unrest

Community leaders in Tottenham have criticised police for failing to show up at a meeting designed to "rebuild relations" after last August's riots.

Hundreds of people gathered in the town hall to discuss the launch of a report on a community-led inquiry into the riots, which called for renewed attempts at "rebuilding relationships between the community and police".

The Labour MP David Lammy said: "We are here very much today as a community. So it is with tremendous dismay and disbelief and huge disappointment that I express my sadness on behalf of the people of Tottenham that senior police officers have not come today.

"I believe that is a strategic mistake and is indicative of some of the strategic mistakes that have led us to this point," he said.

The event had to be relocated when twice the number of expected guests arrived, including more than 300 schoolchildren, teachers, council officials and representatives from churches, mosques, local businesses and Tottenham Hotspur football club.

Senior police officers are understood to have objected to some findings of the inquiry, which concluded that a "long-term deterioration" in the relationship between the community and the police was one factor that had led to disorder in the borough.

Lammy was one of a number of local politicians to endorse the report, which also cited high unemployment as a key factor contributing to the riots.

He said central government should provide a Tottenham regeneration programme similar to those seen in other nearby boroughs, such as Canary Wharf in Tower Hamlets and the Olympic Village in Newham. "For too long, we in this part of north-east London have watched east London and been left wondering what the regeneration story is for us," he said.

More than 700 local people took part in the grassroots inquiry, which began in the aftermath of the riots that started in Tottenham following the shooting of local man Mark Duggan.

Organisers said the borough commander, Chief Superintendent Sandra Looby, declined to attend, citing "operation reasons". She failed to send a replacement, meaning the police were the only local stakeholders not present at the meeting.

Speakers at the event, which was sponsored by Reading the Riots, the Guardian and LSE study into the summer disorder, repeatedly stressed their willingness to engage with police. One commissioner, Father Bunmi Fagbemi, vicar at Holy Trinity church, expressed his disappointment.

"We regret that neither she [Looby], nor any other Haringey police representative has been able to join us today to comment on the report. Several of our recommendations require action by the borough commander and the local police force and they are not here to respond. We hope that we can build a constructive relationship in the future."

He added: "We have to work with the police to build a positive relationship. Never mind that they are not here."

Father Simon Morris, vicar of St Mary's church in Tottenham, another commissioner for the inquiry, called on the borough commander to speak publicly to the community.

In a statement, the Metropolitan police said it was "very interested" in the findings of all the various reports into the summer riots, and Looby had "met with and contributed to" the Tottenham citizens' inquiry. The force did not explain why no one attended the meeting in Looby's place, but said some senior officers were involved in a north London operation.

Among its raft of proposals, the inquiry report asked for local people to be involved in "orientation" of police officers in Tottenham and called for the creation of 1,000 new jobs for young people. The jobs target was endorsed by the local council and prompted a response from one student from Willow Primary School on Broadwater Farm.

The boy, who gave his name as David, stood on his chair and asked: "You said you're going to employ 1,000 people – so when are you going to start?"


Fiona Bawdon

The GuardianTramp

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