A POLICE officer has returned from riot-torn London to describe scenes of fear and wreckage.
Cleveland Police Inspector Anne Marie Salway, 36, helped to restore order to the streets of the capital.
She saw the horror and the aftermath of the violence, burned out cars and fire-ravaged buildings.
But also witnessed hundreds of people coming together to rebuild their own community as they refused to be beaten by the rioters.
She said: “I don’t think there is a single officer who would not have been affected by that.
“The areas that we saw had been heavily attacked. There were boarded up shops and burned down buildings.
“You could see all that and you could see the effect it had on the people.
“There was still a fear there. One man told me ‘if you weren’t here, I wouldn’t be opening today’.
“The public kept telling us how grateful they were that we were there.
“Ten people came up to me to thank me and it was the same for other officers.
“One woman told me it had been like a war zone. She was a businesswoman and she was really appreciative for us to be there. It is a strange thing that hope came out of it all.”
She first found out she was going to the capital when she was “told to pack an overnight bag”.
Insp Salway said: “We were called out on Monday and deployed on Tuesday teatime.”
After a briefing, it was straight onto the streets for a 13 to 14-hour shift.
During a nine-day deployment, she served first in Oxford Street where shops such as Selfridges were feared to be the next target for the rioters.
Then, she was part of a squad patrolling areas some of the worst hit riot zones such as Islington, Camden, Ealing, Peckham and Croydon.
Insp Salway admitted being nervous.
“As an officer, you go through an initial apprehension, but then your pride at being a police officer comes in and that is no different whether it is Croydon or Cleveland.
“If the riots had been allowed to continue – and they were already moving north – you don’t know how far they would spread so there is that element of feeling as though you are protecting Cleveland.
“When it matters, all you think about is getting the job done.”
As thousands of extra officers poured into London, order began to return, said Inspector Salway.
She added: “We did get called to a number of minor disorders which never materialised into anything more than youths on the streets who dispersed when challenged.”
She said the riots had brought out a community spirit in the people of London.
“The aftermath of the riots was sad to see, but it showed that people will pull together in a crisis,” she added.
“It struck me how people focused their attention on solving a problem.
“I don’t think you can be unaffected by it, but there is pride in knowing that we piloted neighbourhood policing in Cleveland, and London reinforced that for me.”
Inspector Salway is normally stationed at Hartlepool, but is currently stationed with the vulnerability unit in Middlesbrough.