LONDON — Police tensions flared Saturday over Britain's recruitment of a veteran American police commander to advise the government on how to combat gangs and prevent a repeat of the past week's riots and looting.
Leaders of the police unions in London and the northwest city of Manchester criticized the appointment of William Bratton, former commander of the police forces in Los Angeles, New York and Boston, as an insulting stunt.
Their criticism follows rising friction between Prime Minister David Cameron and senior British police officers over whether the government, or the police, deserve credit for bringing four days of riots under control.
"America polices by force. We don't want to do that in this country," said Paul Deller of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents more than 30,000 officers in the British capital.
Deller, a 25-year Met officer, accused the government of not being serious about following Bratton's recipe for reducing crime.
"When Mr. Bratton was in New York and Los Angeles, the first thing he did was to increase the number of police on the street, whereas we've got a government that wants to do exactly the opposite," he said, referring to Britain's commitment to slash law enforcement spending as part of debt reduction efforts.
Ian Hanson, chairman of the federation's Manchester branch, said local officers knew better how to police their own communities than "someone who lives 5,000 miles away."
Police have been on the defensive over their slow initial response to riots that rapidly spread Aug. 6 from the north London district of Tottenham to several London flashpoints and, eventually, to several other English cities. Cameron also criticized their tactics as too passive and announced Friday his government would receive policy advice from the 63-year-old Bratton, who resigned as Los Angeles police commissioner in 2009 after overseeing strong reductions in gang-related crime in all three of his commands.
Five people were killed during England's riots, including a 26-year-old man shot to death in his car and a 68-year-old man beaten to death after arguing with rioters and trying to extinguish a fire they had set.
In England's second-largest city of Birmingham, police said Saturday they had arrested two more men on suspicion of murdering three Pakistani men during street clashes there Wednesday. The arrests rose to five the number of men, aged 16 to 27, being interrogated over the killing of Haroon Jahan, 20, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31. The trio were fatally struck by a speeding car that appeared to be driven deliberately into a crowd of South Asian vigilantes protecting a strip of family-owned shops in west Birmingham.
The father of the youngest victim, 46-year-old Tariq Jahan, told journalists at a Birmingham news conference he had received thousands of letters from well-wishers worldwide. He received national praise for declaring, just hours after his son's killing, that he bore no anger toward his killers, the police or the government, and for appealing to young Muslims in his neighborhood not to retaliate against the black gang members believed responsible. His repeated public appeals appeared to deter any retaliatory violence.
"I would like to thank the community, especially the young people, for listening to what I have to say and staying calm," Jahan said.
Scotland Yard said that, as of Saturday night, 1,276 suspected rioters and looters have been arrested, of whom 748 have been charged with various crimes.
Nationwide, more than 2,100 people have been arrested. Courts in London, Birmingham and Manchester have stayed open around the clock since Wednesday to process the cases.
Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd
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