Two thoughts occur, first of which is good on those who've woken up to the reality that the police simply cannot protect everyone in this kind of situation. They just can't. The Met has about 33,000 officers, and with Specials and PCSOs it's pushed up to about 42,000 or so, plus whatever can be spared from other forces.* Sounds like a lot but of course they can't just stop all other areas of policing or expect officers to go without sleep of food, and if neighbouring forces have serious problems of their own there may be little help available - and of course several now do. They'd be doing well to have 25,000 cops on London's streets and probably even that's a stretch. And since London has somewhere between 8 million and 14 million people depending on where you choose to stop counting you don't need the rioting, looting, scumbag proportion of its society to be even a significant minority for the police to be outnumbered. One percent of ten million outnumbers even optimistic police numbers 4 to 1, and that's before you consider the sheer size of the area that needs to be protected.
Of course the police are equipped and trained and so on, and most importantly are backed up by the state's monopoly on force, so they will eventually get the upper hand and restore order. But that's not much comfort if your home or your business or whatever building or bit of ground that's precious to you and your local community has been wrecked, burned and pillaged by marauding hordes of ferals. The choice then is a simple one: hope like hell the police happen to be around if trouble happens in your neighbourhood or at least come quickly enough to stop it, or to take responsibility for that protection yourself with whatever tools you have and whatever makeshift barriers and weapons you can devise. The police won't like it and have already ordered some to get back in their homes and leave it to them - instructions that I sincerely hope have been ignored pending restoration of the police's ability to protect innocent citizens. And clearly it's not without its risks as those few deaths of people trying to protect what's theirs show. But just living or running a business in the wrong part of the wrong town is a risk in itself at the moment, so it's hardly surprising that a number of people have decided to grab whatever they have that swings well and looks like a looter would steer clear of, and take up stations.**
And the second thought that occurs? It'd be a damn sight easier for people to protect themselves and their property if ownership of the best tools for doing so - firearms - wasn't banned for all of Britain's persistently law-abiding non-offenders, and there might have been less looting if the pricks with the bricks thought there was a fair chance there'd be someone with a loaded gun behind the glass ready to defend the place.
UPDATE - as a follow up to one of the footnotes below, from The Daily Mail article linked above (my bold):
Amarjit Singh Klair from nearby Hounslow, who helped rally the men, said: ‘We are working along side the police, they’re doing what they can but they are stretched.Props to the Sikhs - I've always liked the ones I've met, and as a group they seem to know when to stop fucking around and start relying on themselves.
‘Why shouldn’t we defend our homes, businesses and places of worship? This is our area. There’s lots of talk about it kicking off here. But we’re ready for them.’
Hooded youths could be seen scouting the area but appear to be have frightened off. Only a handful of police could be seen patrolling the area.
The Sikh community were running a military style operation to protect themselves after almost 100 rioters tried to attack the heart of the area early on Tuesday.
With few police around, elders at London’s largest Sikh temple in Havelock Road resorted to telephoning male worshippers for help.
Last night groups of Sikh men stood guard at different parts of the town, keeping in touch via their mobiles.
One man in his 20s said: ‘They caught us off guard last night but we still managed to get people together to protect the area. We saw them putting on their balaclavas preparing to jump out of three cars but we charged at them and managed to chase them off.’
* I haven't counted the City of London police as they have less than a thousand to add and if trouble spread to their patch I could imagine they might to borrow manpower from the Met.
** It's also not surprising, or not to me anyway, that the among the first to do so were Sikhs defending their temple. They're not daft and not shy of taking responsibility for their own defence.