Posts Tagged '2012'

You are gold! Always believe in yourself!

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Met Police Commander Bob Broadhurst had said in his futuristic video briefing that the security operation surrounding the Olympic Games was to be the ‘largest peacetime deployment of police the country has ever seen’.

As one of the thousands of officers from around the country deployed to the games, did it live up to the hype?

Like I’d written before, I’d jumped at the chance to get involved with the Olympics and had been looking forward to going ever since our planning department had confirmed I’d been picked.

I’m happy to report that the experience itself itself exceeded all expectations.

My deployment lasted over a ten day period, starting off on Thursday the 26th of July with around sixty of us meeting in Birmingham to load onto a series of coaches.

At the pick up point a theme started that would continue over the course of the trip – being presented with food at every turn. Eating is something I’m pretty enthusiastic about so I had no issues with this and plunged into the sandwich bag with a true Olympic spirit.

Our officers were spread across university halls around the capital with my ‘serial’ – six officers and a sergeant – heading off to the Brunel University campus in Uxbridge, West of London not far from Heathrow.

Everything ran smoothly, we unloaded our huge baggage train and went off for a briefing with the Metropolitan Police who helped orientate us and brought us up to speed on the local lingo; ‘apples and pears’ apparently meaning ‘stairs’ and ‘Gregory Peck’ standing in for ‘cheque’.

Day one of the deployment proper had us up early and on a coach to one of the Met’s huge mustering points which they’d constructed at the the base of Battersea Power Station.

Like an incredibly well policed miniature city, the mustering point had all the facilities required for us to park up our vehicles, eat, collect radios and then receive our daily briefing.

It was only once we arrived at the mustering point that we got an idea of the scale of the operation – sat in the canteen were officers from every single force and parked outside were vehicles baring a huge variety of crests. Everyone was wearing slightly different uniforms, including one force who had stab vests apparently disguised to look like a jumper an elderly teacher might wear, but I think everyone was excited about being there.

As I’d said, eating was indeed a big part of the trip and I felt the Met did an excellent job in ensuring we could fill out our stab vests. The catering staff remained cheerful despite the never ending parade of hungry bobbies and the food wasn’t bad either.

Assigned to help out with the torch relay with the flame being brought down the Thames by barge, we then made our way to Westminster Bridge for a spot of foot patrol.

Perhaps having your photo taken by tourists gets a little tiring after a while but it was a novelty for us and so we spent a very enjoyable few hours chatting to the tourists and giving some rather ‘approximate’ directions before seeing the flotilla arrive and pass under us on its trip towards Tower Bridge.

Saturday was a day off with me taking the chance to see the end of the men’s road cycling by Buckingham Palace, Sunday then saw us start doing what we’d be tasked with for the bulk of our time in London – helping guard Team USA at their London training facility.

As always we started off with a generous breakfast at Brunel and then, probably not more than two hours later, arrived at the muster point in Wanstead for lunch before heading off to the Docklands where Team USA had taken over the University of East London campus.

It was our job to man the checkpoints around the perimeter and whilst it wasn’t particularly busy, I think it was quite a good posting.

Situated across the dock from London City Airport we could watch the planes land and gaze at the cruise ships docked down the quayside that the IOC had hired as accommodation for their staff.

Over the course of the week we found ourselves chatting to several of the Team USA staff who without exception were incredibly friendly and polite. I saw a few of the wrestlers, boxers, spoke to the shot put coach for a while and saw their entire basketball team trying to squeeze into a coach.

The highlight though was, without doubt, the catering. I know it sounds like the main thing I took away from the deployment was a little extra weight (partially true) but Team USA had taken over the canteen and granted us officers free access to it – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so well and if anyone from Team USA is reading this, a big thank you to you all – every officer I spoke to was grateful for the grub!

Another highlight was getting to work with the Met officers, most of whom who were from Romford, who had been sent to help us out. I found it really interesting to exchange different views about the job and I had a great time exchanging police slang with them, learning slowly that ‘skipper’ was their word for sergeant and ‘guv’nor’ their equivalent of ‘gaffa’ or ‘boss’. They did a great job penetrating our thick Walsall accents too.

The final day of the deployment, Friday the 3rd, had us doing something slightly different as rather than heading to UEL, we instead went out to Wimbledon where the semi-finals of the men’s tennis were being held that afternoon.

Having spent a year living just down the road in Putney, I’d never actually been to Wimbledon but found it to be a lovely area and we had a great time standing outside Southfields Underground Station pointing people in the direction of the stadium.

When I signed up for the Olympics I wasn’t too sure how close I’d get to any of the venues but for our evening meal we got to go to the Wimbledon staff canteen, directly under Centre Court, and then wonder around the grounds which was a true privilege.

We saw Henman Hill/Murray Mound, watched a bit of the Murray match on the screens and posed for a few photos with the crowd before returning to the tube station to help direct the crowds back home.

Saturday was dedicated to traveling back to the West Midlands and it felt odd to be leaving, especially as having been so busy I think we all had the impression that we’d been in London for a lot longer than ten days. The shifts had been long – a good twelve hours a day – but enjoyable too so I didn’t hear anyone complaining.

Being down in London for the Olympics had been a superb experience and one of the most rewarding our my career so far.

The Met, both in their organisation and the officers themselves, showed themselves to be very hospitable and we mutual aid officers were well looked after by them.

There was a perceptible buzz around the Olympics whilst we were there, there were the funnily dressed Games Makers everywhere, the public were evidently caught up in the Olympic spirit and this made the games a true pleasure to police.

Keeping up to date with Team GB’s progress was a little difficult with our shifts but as the deployment progressed the growing medal haul suggested this Olympics would be a truly memorable one for British sport.

So it was for British policing.

For more photos from the deployment, please check out the gallery over on Facebook!

London calling to the faraway towns…

The Olympics have come to us, now it’s our turn to go to them. What’s involved in getting us police officers to London?

It’s now one week until I, along with several other of West Midlands Police’s finest officers, get sent down to London to help out at the Olympics.

The games themselves are eight days away and as I think I made clear in my last blog, I’m looking forward to getting involved.

What does it take to get us there though? Is it simply the case of throwing our funny shaped hats into a kit bag and hoping on a train?

To say that a lot of planning has gone into the Games is somewhat of an understatement.

Whilst I’m sure Lord Coe has pitched in with a paintbrush here and there, he’s been supported by a small army of support staff all working together to ensure that the swimming pools are filled with water, the 100m track is exactly 100m long and that there are enough leotards to go round.

Of the different aspects to consider in the preparations, security is probably one of the most important.

Speaking frankly, I’m not sure what to make of this. My view is that if there’s a group of people who don’t need a great deal of police protection, it’s world class athletes.

Why do I say this?

Well, try mugging Usain Bolt. As soon as you’ve said ‘Give me your…’ he’ll be in Luton. Likewise see what happens when you get a bit shirty with the Taekwondo teams, or the weightlifters.

Put simply, there’s hardly anything separating the athletes currently flooding into the capital from the cast of Avengers Assemble and with their ability to pole vault, somersault and chop their way out of trouble I’m not going to be too worried about them.

This said perhaps the same can’t be said about the public at large and so they’re the reason that we’ll be on the streets of the capital in large numbers, having our photos taken next to tourists and saying ‘ello ‘ello ‘ello to anyone who fancies causing trouble.

Getting us there though has been far from straightforward and something that’s been in planning ever since we won the right to host the world’s sports day back in 2006.

Consider the first issue for example – ensuring that we have the resilience to support both the local forces in London whilst at the same time also policing the good people of Birmingham. We can’t all suddenly take flight to the capital so we’ve had to work out how to strike a sensible balance.

This is made harder by having to abstract multiple officers from a range of different departments, all likely working different shift patterns and from different locations.

It’s not a job I’d envy and I think the staff in our Resource Management Unit have done a cracking job so far in working out how to juggle us officers around so to provide the Games with officers whilst at the same time leaving plenty for our own commitments.

Freeing up officers though isn’t the half of it.

Once you’ve allocated a chunk of police officers (I think the plural for police officers is a chunk) you’ve then got to work out what to do with them.

This will mean working closely with the local forces and LOGOC to understand their requirements, to get our heads around which athletes will be where, who will be throwing what and where will we need to stand to ensure we don’t get a javelin lodged in our stab vests.

This is made harder by the fact that the security requirements are ever changing. New intelligence will be flowing in all the time and could change the situation overnight meaning our Olympic Planning Department need to be ready to alter their arrangements at a minute’s notice.

So you’ve got the officers and you know roughly what they need to do, now you need to work out how to transport large numbers of officers from across the West Midlands to venues across London and beyond.

Some will be traveling in police vehicles, others in coaches and some may even hop onto trains, all of which need to be tightly scheduled so that everyone knows where and when they need to be and so we can avoid any hilarious Home Alone situations from occurring.

If you’ve never been on a coach full of police officers, it’s not a million miles away from being on a school trip. I don’t really envy the supervisors sat at the front putting up with constant calls of ‘sarge are we nearly there yet?’ or ‘sarge I need the toilet’ or even ‘sarge PC Smith keeps pinching me’…

Having got us to London, we then need to be clothed, sheltered and fed. We eat a lot so heavy duty catering facilities are a must. A quality coffee outlet and easily accessible doughnut vender will also be welcome. Essentials out the way, we also need places to securely store CS spray and to recharge radios.

We’re now in London, our bellies are full and we’re ready to hit the streets, where do we need to go and what exactly are we going to be doing?

Whilst policing duties are largely the same across the country, equipment and procedures are not so we’ll need to do a little ‘acclimation’ to get used to local forces’ radio networks, their computer systems and anything else that they may do differently.

A series of ‘eLearning’ packages completed ahead of our deployment will have helped although there’s still likely to be a few teething issues whilst we work out which button does what on the Met Police radios and learn to overcome the temptation of pressing the big red one marked ‘do NOT press’.

Clothed, fed and up to speed on working in London, the task of policing the games can finally begin in earnest as can that of enjoying our time down in the capital.

It’s something a little different for us, a fantastic opportunity for us to get involved and is sure to provide some great memories.

Much of the planning behind the Games will have taken place out of the public eye by people who you’re unlikely to ever of heard of, the work they’ve put in though in pulling it all together will be reflected every day in what I think is going to be a great event. Here’s to them!

Going for gold…

Lots of sports are happening in London starting next week and I’ll be heading down to help out – am I excited? You bet!

Now I don’t know if you’ve heard but in around ten days, depending on when you’re reading this, there will be starting down in foggy London Town a big fancy sports day.

I’m a little hesitant to mention it by name as even the name of our fair capital has been classified as a ‘protected word’ (see here for more) but then I probably don’t need to – you’ll have seen the five ‘sports day discs’ printed on every item in the supermarket, will be well acquainted with Wenlock & Mandeville and you may have even seen the sports day sparkler being carried through your town as it winds its way towards the metropolis.

Yes, the big sports day is indeed a big deal and one that I’m greatly looking forward to, not only because I like watching the sports people doing their sports but also because I, like many other police officers from around the country, am going to be directly involved.

Us police officers hold a privileged position – we get to do things that many people will never do, we see things that most folk wouldn’t want to see and we meet truly ‘animated’ characters on a daily basis.

When it comes to national events we often find ourselves with a front row seat being paid for the privilege of saying ‘I was there’.

Such events are career milestones – the roles we play in them may not necessarily be interesting but they are things we can look back on in ten or twenty years time with the satisfaction that we’ve had the opportunity to take part.

Some of the older officers I work with still remember what they were doing during the Miners’ Strikes – not necessarily fond memories but such events are milestones nonetheless that come to punctuate careers.

My first ‘milestone’ was helping out for the Pope’s visit in 2010. I wasn’t doing anything interesting – I was guarding a fence outside St. Mary’s College in the middle of the night and was in bed long before the Pope came anywhere near but even so, I’d contributed, I’d been involved.

I’ve always thought that you get out what you put in and so when the emails went out earlier this year asking for volunteers to go down to London for the big sports day, I jumped at the opportunity.

I didn’t do so under the impression that I’d be inside the stadium for the opening ceremony, or chasing after Usain Bolt in the 100m final – I actually thought I’d probably be nowhere near any of the events and stuck at a tube station somewhere directing lost tourists whilst being equally lost myself.

This didn’t matter though, what mattered was that I’d get a chance to be there.

With the festivities starting next week, the plans for my own deployment, along with those of officers around the country, are finally starting to take shape.

As I’ve mentioned on my Twitter feed I’ll be boarding a coach bound for the big smoke next Thursday and whilst I can’t say too much about what I’ll be doing whilst I’m there, I’ve got a week and a half spell helping out at the games which I’m very much looking forward to.

As I’ve said, you get out what you put in. I’m thinking the Olympics (I said it!) will be a great chance to put this approach into practice.

P.S. I’m a little unsure how frequently I’ll be able to update the Twitter feed over the course of the deployment. I’ll be following the advice given to us by Lord Coe and whilst the IOC seems encouraging on the use of social media during the games, I get a feeling I’ll be so busy that I might not get the chance.

I’m carryin’ a torch for you, baby…

Flaming heck, it’s the Olympic Flame’s route for Saturday June 30th!

If you’ve driven by Walsall Police Station recently you may have noticed a lovely yellow sign sitting on the pavement advising that there are some upcoming road closures. Being an attentive driver you’ve kept your eyes on the road but you did glance something about June 30th. What’s happening on June 30th though?

Well, after taking the strangest route possible from Olympia, the Olympic Flame will finally be completing its historic journey and arriving on the good streets of our fair town.

It should be a great day and even if the thought of someone running through the streets brandishing a flaming torch doesn’t ignite your interest, there are plenty of other events taking place for you to enjoy.

The arrival of the flame is a historic event and will likely attract a large amount of media interest, especially considering the important role played by Walsall in the original Olympic games several thousand years ago.

Greek folklore has it that after Prometheus stole fire from Zeus, he took it to Walsall and hid it in a cave at the bottom of Park Street, the location of which is now marked by the town’s famous concrete hippo.

The symbolism of the hippo has been lost over time although some say that even on the coldest of nights, the hippo feels warm to the touch as though the ancient fire still burns beneath its belly.

Okay, some of the above may not be true (does anybody know why there is a concrete hippo in Walsall?) however torch day is sure to be one that’ll be burnt into people’s memory for many years to come.

This said, where can you see it and after you’ve seen it, what else can you do to celebrate Prometheus’ shameless offence against S. 1 of the Theft Act 1968?

As you can see from the above map, the flame’s route takes it down Bloxwich High Street onto Green Lane and then around the town centre. After refreshments (it’ll have burnt a few calories by this point) it’ll get hot on the tail of its escort and shoot down Wolverhampton Road, across Junction 10 and into Willenhall before leaving the Walsall area for Wolverhampton.

We estimate (and these plans could go up in smoke) that the torch will arrive in Bloxwich at around 11:50 and then enter the town centre at 12:25. It’ll be leaving Walsall again at 13:45, should reach Willenhall at 14:20 and will be leaving again ten minutes later.

Between Leamore Lane and Green Lane and also whilst crossing Junction 10 the torch will not be on display as it’ll be hitching a lift with the support team.

The route planned for the torch will be closed off in advance so you’re advised to make alternate transport arrangements on the day itself, lest you get caught up in the festivities and little hot under the collar.

Bloxwich, Walsall and Willenhall are all holding their own celebrations to mark the flame’s arrival which include face painting, food, music and more. You can find out more about the events on the Walsall for 2012 website and they’re encouraging you to contact them and get involved so please feel free to do so.

If you’re outside Walsall and would like to know where the flame is going, check out the official route for more info.

The flame’s arrival is sure to be warmly received* and as a once in a lifetime event, it’s one that you’re not going to want to miss. Morrissey once wrote ‘there is a light that never goes out’ – go out it hopefully won’t, but come to Walsall again it may well never do so make sure you make the most of it!

* Apologies for my flame puns, I tried to stop but I was simply on fire with them…

I want the one I can’t have…

Officers up and down the country are, amongst other things, currently jumping for joy at the prospect of being awarded an official medal to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

This medal will be awarded to all members of the emergency services, armed forces and prison staff who qualify by having completed five years in their chosen professions by this February.

Here in lies the rub.

Officers with less service than this – like myself – don’t qualify and as a consequence, get no shiny medals to proudly pin to our tunics. Surely quality should be valued over quantity? Apparently not!

Not to worry though – after careful consideration and an expensive, exhaustive design process a solution has been found.

Allow me to present my unofficial, homemade Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for anyone who would have qualified for the actual one, were it not for the five year limit!

The unofficial Diamond Jubilee Medal for emergency service members with LESS than five years' time in the job.

Now I think you’ll all agree that just like a fine watch, the craftsmanship and attention to detail involved in producing this very collectable item is simply unsurpassed.

Obviously the pictured medal is police-specific, although I am able to customise the face to include any branch of the services.

Orders on the back of a £50 note to myself at Walsall Police Station…


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