Avon & Somerset Police have said that a ‘significant’ investigation is now underway to identify and arrest the rioters responsible for the widespread disorder last weekend outside the Bridewell Police Station in Bridewell Street.
Over 100 officers have now formed part of a task force whose aim is to identify and arrest the individuals responsible for assaulting 21 police officers – two of them seriously – destroying police vehicles and damaging police property.
The bill for the clean-up and replacement police vehicles is expected to be picked up by local tax payers and could exceed £150,000.
At one point during the disorder, a rioter tried to set fire to a police van as the officers inside attempted to reverse away from other police vehicles which had been set alight.
You can watch that video HERE.
As well as officers being attacked by the mob, rioters also set fire to several police vehicles, a community police station, and damaged Bridewell Police Station’s exterior.
So far, officers have arrested eight people—six for violent disorder and two for possession of an offensive weapon.
The Major Crime Investigation Team is leading the inquiry, with support from CID, Operational Support and Intelligence/Forensics to track down those responsible for the serious violence and damage.
Det Chief Supt Carolyn Belafonte said the investigation would be comprehensive and could result in the release of the largest number of images for wanted suspects in the force’s history.
The vast majority of the officers involved in the incident would have been wearing body-worn video cameras which would have been recording before the violence started. Hundreds of CCTV cameras also captured the entry and exit routes of the individuals who were responsible for the violence and destruction.
Investigators have also been crawling through the footage which was uploaded to social media during and after the riot. This footage will help to identify the individuals who were responsible for not only assaulting the police, but setting fire to police vehicles and police property.
Talking about the investigation, DCS Belafonte said:
“What happened on the streets of Bristol on Sunday was nothing short of disgraceful and it’s provoked widespread condemnation over the past 24 hours.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and kindness that we’ve received from the public, as well as from organisations and agencies across the city. It’s greatly appreciated and means a lot to all the officers and staff who work day in, day out to keep the public safe.
“We have an enormous amount of digital evidence to go through including CCTV footage, Body Worn Video, social media coverage and footage/photos provided by people at the scene.
“We’ve already started receiving a large amount of digital material from the public, which we’re grateful for, but to ensure we capture all available evidence, we’ve set up a dedicated form via our website where people can provide video footage and photos
“Once we’ve carried out an initial view of the material we’ve collated, we’ll be in a position to release images to the public to help us identify suspects. From what we’ve already collated, we’re confident more arrests are imminent.
“A full forensic examination of the scene has been carried out today and this has resulted in forensic evidence being obtained, including fingerprints, which will also be used to help identify suspects.
“This will be a lengthy investigation but we’re wholly committed to tracking down all those who engaged in the wanton disorder yesterday.
“To those who took part in this spree of offending, you can expect a knock at your door in the days or weeks to come – it may come sooner than you think.”
Talking about the serious disorder, Chief Constable Marsh said:
“Let’s be clear, the wanton violence and destruction had nothing to do with protest – it was committed by those looking for an excuse to commit disorder. The scenes we witnessed were shameful and I know will be condemned by the whole city.
“We’ve received messages of support from across the policing, emergency service and political landscape. No-one wants to see police officers abused or attacked in this way. These men and women put their safety on the line every day to keep the public safe, and do not deserve to be on the forefront of this abhorrent criminal behaviour.
“20 of our brave officers suffered various injuries – including two who suffered more serious injuries which needed hospital treatment. I was at a Bristol station last night and can tell you the feeling of anguish was felt by all our officers and staff at seeing colleagues injured while on the frontline.
“Ahead of every protest or significant gathering, we assess the appropriate level of policing resources. There was no prior intelligence that violent acts would be committed on this scale.
“No specific organiser was identified prior to the event but we did engage with a number of organisations who had expressed an interest in attending to discourage them due to the current COVID-19 restrictions. We hoped stressing the sacrifices the Bristol community had made over the past year would deter people from attending.
“A tactical decision was made to deal with these criminals retrospectively and not make a significant number of arrests last night, which would have impacted significantly on our resources at the scene and created a greater risk of damage to property and injuries to the reduced number of officers left to deal with the disorder.
“What the public will see now is a huge police investigation in which we’ll be gathering evidence from CCTV, Body Worn Video, social media content and images/video sent in by the public. We are appealing for people to send in footage so all those responsible can be identified – full details of where to send these will be issued on our website and social media later.
“This will undoubtedly lead to one of the biggest appeals for wanted suspects that we’ve ever done. There will be significant consequences for behaviour like this and we will leave no stone unturned.
“The cost of policing this operation, carrying out the subsequent investigation and repairing and replacing our vehicles and damage to our city centre station will run into the millions. This is money which could have been spent on safeguarding and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.”
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