London Riots 2011
Police Averted Riots at Olympic Site and Oxford Street After Monitoring Blackberry Messenger and Twitter Reuters

Following criticism of the Metropolitan Police's "measured", "stand-off" approach to London rioters, the service's Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin has spoken out defending the police's tactics.

The comments refer to the Metropolitan Police's response to the riots that recently swept through London.

The riots started over the weekend in London's Tottenham area. The riots originally started as a protest against the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by armed police. They later turned into riots and spread to numerous other UK cities, including Manchester and Birmingham. Since the escalation there have been numerous reports of looting and attacks on both journalists and random passers-by.

On Monday, one of the worst nights to hit London, journalists captured footage showing a line of Metropolitan Policemen in full riot gear standing back as rioters looted stores. Once shown, the videos led to widespread accusations that the police were not being proactive enough.

Speaking at a COBRA meeting this morning Godwin defended the service's response arguing that it was entirely appropriate to the threat:

"Can I add that a lot of stuff has been said about Tuesday and Wednesday in relation to the large numbers of officers we've had and the support we've had from other forces, but what I would like to do is pay tribute to the men and women who went out on Monday night, when we faced unprecedented violence and damage and criminality and looting, and they were so brave," commented Godwin. "I was so proud of them in terms of how they stood up. Any suggestion the officers stood back is wrong."

The Acting Commissioner later clarified that the tactics were taken to minimise the number of casualties and avoid an escalation that would place more innocent standers-by in jeopardy.

"My Commanders who ran that operation were extremely stretched and extremely brave in their decisions. One of the things this country, this city, should be proud of is that whilst we've had some tragedies in Birmingham and here in London, the lack of casualties on the back of this, the lack of filling up hospitals, is something we should be very proud of, and I don't think would happen anywhere else in the world. As a result of that, we mustn't lose sight of that good work done on Monday by lots of very brave officers."

A more ominous theory put forward by several activists interviewed in London's Hackney region -- one of the original and worst hit areas during the riots -- alleged that the police's decision to stand back while rioters looted was informed by the recently announced cuts to the service's budget.

Residents interviewed indicated a belief that the Police chose to "hang back" to protest the cuts in police funding. The theory alleges that the tactic was taken to demonstrate the need for a strong police and bring public opinion back to its favour.

Both the Police and the UK Prime Minister have since vehemently denied this claim.