Police used pepper spray to disperse teenagers after officers were surrounded by up to 100 youngsters and were attacked by a hardcore of yobs, it has emerged.
Residents of Stanley, County Durham, spoke out in support of police after they released body-worn camera footage of the shocking town centre trouble, which occurred on Saturday November 3 after a fireworks display.
Officers were called to help a drunk teenage girl near the bus station, but the situation escalated when they were surrounded and asked youths to move back and give them space to treat the girl.
Others in hoodies lit fireworks and directed them at police, some threw bricks and a Police Community Support Officer was punched in the face.
Mr Clarke said his officers were right to use pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
He said a smaller group of teenagers had objected to being told what to do.
“It escalated from there and you had a group of six to 10 boys wanting to show off in front of their friends, and that developed into kicks, karate kicks, punching and people jumping around sparring.
“After at least 10 warnings, the officers used the pepper spray.”
The footage was released to the media to provoke a reaction locally and to show parents the potential consequences of letting their children congregate in large numbers, Mr Clarke said.
The police have now set up a text service to alert parents to collect their children should there be trouble in Stanley town centre.
Mr Clarke defended his town, saying it is “not like 1980s Beirut”.
But he acknowledged large numbers of young people do congregate at the bus station, which he described as a “large glass youth club, open 24 hours a day” – but with no youth workers.
Efforts will continue to put youngsters off meeting there in large numbers, he said, such as removing seats and improving CCTV.
Mr Clarke insisted there are enough officers to cope with youth disturbances, but policing such flashpoints removes staff from their regular work such as checking on known burglars or sex offenders.
But taxi driver Maurice Sheini said: “We need more police present. There’s not enough police personnel to go around.
“Kids do what they like and if you confront them, you cause more bother for yourself.”
Her sister-in-law Tracy Thurlaway, 52, also from South Moor, added: “The kids treat the police like crap, they have no respect for them.”
Ms Richardson agreed, saying: “If I got a polis to my door to see my dad, I would have died. My dad would have killed me.”
She agreed with the decision to release the footage but said the teenagers’ faces should not have been pixellated.
A retired senior officer who used to work in Stanley said reduced staffing levels were affecting the force’s ability to deal with youth disorder.
Harry Stephenson, 62, an ex-detective superintendent who led murder investigations, said yobs know resources are stretched, adding that some teenagers, many of whom work out at the gym and are difficult to subdue, have been given too many second chances.
He said: “I think we have missed a generation.
“When I was a younger cop, youngsters took notice of you. If they did something wrong, the first time they would get a warning, the second time they would be put into the system.
“Now they are given chance after chance after chance.”