Posts Tagged 'London 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!

No distance left to run…

Yesterday's Virgin London Marathon seemed to set the tone nicely for the Olympics which officers from the West Midlands will be involved in policing.

Yesterday I spent much of the morning popping up from various underground stations to watch the Virgin London Marathon in all its 26.2 mile glory. I was keen to see both the race itself and also to get a glimpse at the policing operation supporting the event as I’ll soon be coming back to London myself to help out with an even bigger sporting event – the Olympic Games.

As ever the preparations that would have gone into the race paid off handsomely with the return being a smoothly run event that was as enjoyable for the fans as it was for the participants themselves. London lends itself well to hosting a race on the scale of the marathon and the international flavour of the audience which I spent most of the day weaving through I think showing the worldwide appeal of the capital city.

The course record was just missed with Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang winning the male race in 2:04:44 and Mary Keitany, also of Kenya, being the first woman across the finish line with a time of 2:18:37.

As an occasional amateur runner myself I know these times are ridiculously quick – I was happy with completing the Black Country Half Marathon in just over an hour and a half last year so can’t really put into words how impressed I am when the pros go to work.

On the policing side, officers from both The Met, the British Transport Police and the City of London forces looked like they were having as much fun as some of the spectators. There were officers perched on horses, lots of bobbies wondering around on foot and support vehicles parked on nearly every street corner.

Hosting the marathon every year they’re obviously used to the size of the event and I reckon this bodes well for hosting the Olympics which I guess they’ll just see as a big fancy sports day.

Okay, maybe Lord Coe would challenge me on that description – the Olympics are going to involve tens of thousands of people flooding into the capital to watch athletes competing in a range of disciplines at venues spread across the city and beyond. The spectators – and not to mention the athletes themselves – are going to require feeding, housing, transport and security on a massive scale. In less than one hundred days London is going to be capital of the world.

Whilst London is the host, the games are obvious larger than the city itself and so require help from all over to ensure they run to plan. Thousands of volunteers have come forward and when it comes to supporting the capital’s emergency services, there’ll be staff from all over the country drafted in to reinforce the local resources.

As the second largest force, West Midlands Police will be sending a number of officers – myself included – down to London to provide what we call ‘mutual aid’. Planning for this operation will have been going on behind the scenes ever since we first won the bid for the games and will no doubt be on a scale as grand as the games themselves.

Whilst at the moment I don’t know exactly where I’ll be working or what I’ll be doing, I’m likely to be working the the British Transport Police to ensure the underground and overground train networks can manage the increased load. Having spent three years living in London myself and never really getting my head around the tube map, this could be interesting but I’m sure we’ll do our best!

Other officers will be providing support in different roles including specialist search teams, public order and crowd control.

Whilst the focus of the Olympics will obviously be on London, this isn’t to say that we’re not affected by the games up here in what Londoners term ‘the north’ with there being events to get involved with even if you didn’t manage to get tickets for the mens’ 100 meter final or the inexplicably popular womens’ volleyball.

You can keep an eye out on the local events over on the London 2012 website with the main thing to look out for being the Olympic Torch visiting Walsall on Saturday June 30th.

It’ll be making its way down the A34 onto Green Lane, past the police station and then doing a lap of the town centre before dashing down the Wolverhampton Road and across Junction 10 of the M6 towards Willenhall and then on into Wolverhampton.

The route is planned so that the torch will pass within ten miles of 95% of the population, check out the map to find out when and where it’ll be coming to your area.

The other main consideration for the West Midlands is that of security – there’s always the chance someone might use the games as an opportunity to cause trouble and as such we need your help in ensuring this doesn’t happen. We ask that you remain vigilant in the run up to the games and that you report any suspicious activity connected with the Olympics to us immediately. Either call us on 101 or approach Crimestoppers anonymously.

As you may be able to tell, the Olympics are something that I’m really looking forward to and so am happy that I’ve had the chance to go down and get involved in an event which I’ll remember for the rest of my police career.

It’s going to require a lot of work from a lot of people to make the games a success – judging from what I saw in London yesterday I think we’re on the right track.


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