A ‘conspicuous success’?

Policing Liverpool and Manchester in July 1981

in Race and riots in Thatcher’s Britain
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This chapter examines some key policing developments of the 1980–81 disorders, focusing on Toxteth, Liverpool and Moss Side, Manchester through interviews and original local records. Reaction to previous disturbances strengthened police tactics and riot control equipment, with this transformation demonstrated by the first use of CS gas within mainland Britain and suggestions of arming the police or mobilising the army; radical black groups even alleged the police instigated the July disorders to justify enhanced equipment and ‘stronger’ police tactics. In Moss Side, during a contentious meeting between local community organisations and the police, apparent advances in the police/community relationship were alleged to have actually been a ploy to justify a forceful police response to disorder, employing tactics modelled upon Northern Ireland examples – including using police vehicles to disperse crowds and ‘snatch squads’ targeting influential participants. Authorities again framed disturbances around law and order, rather than addressing broader issues of racism, discrimination or their economic and social policies; Manchester Chief Constable James Anderton’s actions were described by the government as a ‘conspicuous success’, but did little to improve poor police/black relations at the heart of spreading disturbances.

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