How the police could do a better job and protect our cities more effectively.

I was almost as appalled by the response of the police as I was by the recent looting in London. I also found the constant apologetic, self-serving bleatings from politicians to be almost as embarrassing as they were annoying. And I was almost speechless when I heard it widely suggested that the problem would be solved if parents kept their (teenage, hoody) children indoors. This was serious stuff. On Monday 8th August 2011, London looked uncomfortably like a Middle East hotspot. The only big difference was that the looters and thugs in London were not politically motivated.

Do none of these people understand that the hoodies who were having fun smashing up shops and stealing mobile phones don't care what anyone says (or does) to them?

Forty years ago I worked as a Community Service Volunteer in the toughest parts of Liverpool and later, when I was a medical student in Birmingham, I ran a night-club called `The Gallows' for kids who would otherwise have been on the streets.

Time and time again the kids I was working with got involved in fights which resulted in serious injuries. They simply didn't care because they didn't have anything to lose. Only when they felt they belonged, had responsibilities, and had a future to lose, did they behave responsibly.

When life is so bad that there is no downside, the bleatings of politicians and threats from the police aren't going to make any difference to young people who have become feral.

And today things are far, far worse because today's young people have been brought up knowing that they have rights. For a new generation life is now all about rights. There are no responsibilities.

There are only two solutions. A short-term one and a long-term one.

The short-term solution is that street violence has to be subdued with violence. The looting and the destroying have to be stopped with truncheons and firm arrests in order to protect the innocent, the hard-working and the honest. Nothing else will work.

The long-term solution is that life must be made better so that the looters and destroyers have something to lose: homes, belongings, work, pride and hope. They have to learn respect and dignity. (And none of that will happen until politicians and policemen start behaving honestly and honourably.)

Meanwhile, the police must be firmly told a few home truths.

1. Stop shooting people who aren't shooting. It tends to annoy and frighten people who don't have guns.

2. Policemen who shoot citizens who aren't shooting must be suspended and arrested. No exceptions. The police shoot far too many people these days. And there never seems to be any justice.

3. People who loot buildings and set fires must be arrested immediately. Even the ones who look frightening (because they are wearing balaclavas) must be arrested. The police are paid very well to take personal risks. That's the job. Any officers who don't want to be policemen, protecting life and property, should become librarians and take a massive pay cut. People have been looting and setting fires because they could. The reaction of the police (standing around or running backwards and forwards) seemed egregiously incompetent at best and cowardly at worst. It was the failure of the police to take action which led to the exacerbation of the looting and vandalism.

4. Firemen should put out fires immediately. It is not the job of the police to stop firemen managing to reach fires. And firemen, like policemen, are paid to take risks. Both the police and the fire brigade should be ashamed of the burnt out buildings and wrecked shops in London. There can be no excuses.

Copyright Vernon Coleman