A Day In The Life – Parading at Walsall Police Station, Sunday September 18th 2011, Tour of Duty – 15:00 to 02:00
Something a bit different for today’s tour, rather than zipping around Walsall, jumping over rooftops and locking up stripey top-wearing burglars, I’ve been in the centre of Birmingham helping out with the operation to police the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference at the ICC.
The shift starts off by us gathering at Walsall Police Station and me putting on my thermal vest, t-shirt, stab vest, shell layer, fluorescent jacket and then equipment harness as I know it’s likely to get ‘a bit fresh’ later in the evening.
Kitted up, we then load ourselves onto a minibus and are driven to a police station outside the city centre where our sergeant collects that all important meal vouchers and hands them out.
Napoleon once said ‘West Midlands Police guard party conferences on its stomach’ and this is very true – keeping the officers fed and watered is one of the most important parts of the operation so the first place we go is the canteen.
I exchange my meal ticket for a chicken wrap and gobble it down before we’re all called through to the briefing room where we watch a briefing video and then are given briefing information on any intelligence the briefing people think we should be briefed on.
Briefing complete we then clamber back onto the coaches and navigate our way through the streets to the ‘island site’ – the areas around the conference centre to which access is restricted. We put on our funny hats and walk the rest of the way to find the security posts and their occupants from the early shift who are understandably keen to get off home.
My team has been assigned to look after the front of the ICC and the Hyatt Hotel so we take up point and then stand there for an hour or so, looking official and saying “Ello Ello” to anyone who walks by.
After a couple of hours or so we begin to rotate and having stood in front of the entrance tent I make my way down to the refreshments area where I exchange my second meal ticket and begin demolishing the contents of the packed lunch we’re given.
Thoroughly refreshed I head back out again and the shift passes to the same pattern – take over a point on a cordon, look official, go for a quick break and then head out again to another point.
Whilst on the cordons themselves there’s not a great deal to do so I watch the delegates float about and try to spot the ‘celebs’ of the Liberal Democrat party, or at least people who I think look sufficiently like them for me to cross them off my list.
I also watch the other police units move about their business and it is only by doing so that I get an idea as to how big an operation policing the conference is. Planning takes the best part of the year and I’ve seen involved search teams, firearms officers, dog units, the helicopter and a range of other ‘secret squirrel’ units that even I don’t know what they’re there for.
The last cordon point of the night involves standing next to the Deputy Prime Minister’s armoured BMW and making sure it doesn’t get ticketed which, thanks to being parked deep inside a cordon of about six different security points, it doesn’t.
Eventually the night shift arrive, arranged into a neat line of twos by their supervision so they snake their way through the site relieving officers from the points as they go and I soon get to hand over my checkpoint briefing card to the next officer, wish him luck and then head back to the minibus.
It doesn’t take too long to get back to Walsall and as soon as we arrive we dump our kit, dive into our cars and head home. Two shifts at the conference down, three to go.