I have been correctly criticized for failing to point out that the Blackberry has been the fashion accessary of choice for “rappers”, “elders” and their followers ever since it was used by Obama as his communications device of choice. Twitter is used mainly by middle class hangers-on and spectators.
That raises the way in which the police have failed to keep up with up with the use of technology to strip out layers of paperwork and improve command and control. A case in point is the disintegrated and sclerotic operational communications systems which enabled the ambushing of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall earlier this year.
Perhaps a first step should be an emergency issue of Blackberries. The police could then listen in to the rioters’ communications (pins courtesy of the mothers of the rioters and the afro-carribean business community who are appalled by what is happening) and have a comparable, rapid response, command and control capability.
Among the sillier ideas in the newspapers today were to shut down the communications networks used by the rioters (and many of the rest of us) and to have whole call centres monitoring twitter traffic.
By contrast we should be using the technologies already available to identify, track and trace mobiles used at riot and looting locations so as to pick up individual users while on the move or to map (in real time) the movement of flocks of potential rioters and looters.
The critical need, however, first identified over 35 years ago, is to make effective use of the ICT technologies available even then, to streamline and automate police paperwork and reporting routines. With the technologies now available it should be possible for offenders to charged on the spot if appopriate, even if they cannot be reliably identified (because most of the biometric devices do not work nearly as well as claimed).