Los Angeles riots of 1992
Los Angeles riots of 1992 Creative Common

The ongoing civil disturbances in England have been compared in some ways to the riots that tore through Los Angeles, California almost twenty years ago.

Now that perceived link will be solidified as reports claim that British Prime Minister David Cameron will confer with William Bratton, the former police chief of both New York City and Los Angeles.

Bratton was credited with reducing crime in Los Angeles following the devastating riots of April 1992. That conflagration was sparked after four police officers were acquitted on charges that they brutally beat black motorist Rodney King. The disorder lasted six days, claimed 53 lives and resulted in $1-billion in property damage.

As in London in 2011, Los Angeles witnessed thousands of poor and deprived people in the city’s ghettoes exact revenge against a system they felt offered them no hope – buildings were burnt, stores looted and civilians fought police.

Bratton, dubbed “super-cop” by British newspapers, was reportedly once considered for the top UK police job -- the new Commissioner of London's Metropolitan police.

A former Los Angeles police officer, Andrew Smith, told BBC: "Looking at the pictures coming out of London really brings back memories of what happened here in Los Angeles 20 years ago. I see a lot of parallels with the behavior of the rioters in London - they did the same things here then - and we learned a lot of lessons.”

Smith added: "One of the first things we did initially was to back off from the flashpoint of the riot, but we realized after a while we had to send in more cops and just have an overwhelming show of force and take a lot of people to jail."

The beating of Rodney King also has parallels with the current crisis in the UK. A black man named Mark Duggan was shot and killed by British police in Tottenham, North London – an incident that is believed to have sparked rioting and looting that has spread across urban England.

One observer told BBC that, as in the British riots, in Los Angeles, the lone incident led to widespread violence by many other disaffected people.

"They were Latinos, poor whites, they were just hooligans of all sorts hit the streets along with black gang members and all sorts of people out doing burning and looting and rioting and general thuggery on the streets of LA," said Joe Hicks, a former civil rights activist in Los Angeles.

"You get a lot of clowns and fools and idiots in any society, who are just laying in wait for the chance to do what they do."

Smith added that the Los Angeles riots has long-lasting implications for the LAPD.

"Across the board we made changes in our police department, adding more officers - more women, more minorities, a lot more Hispanic officers to match the community make-up," he said.

"We have embraced community policing - we really work a lot more in partnership with the different communities and we do everything we can to keep things calm when bad things happen and make things better in any way we can. I think we are able to relate to the community a lot better now."