Scotland Yard Gearing Up…
By Maxwell Pereira
mfjpkamath@gmail.com

I have said it before, and I will say it again! You may hit your head against the wall a hundred times convincing the mandarins in the Ministry the need for additional hands for the police, you may send up dozens of proposals to be discussed, dissected, mutilated by Babus who know nothing about policing or the field conditions and reality needs, nothing happens. These proposals get sent back repeatedly to be re-sent again in the crazy formats worked out by the Ministry know-alls, and then again shot down by decision makers in the Finance – with notings to submit again if and when the Government lifts the ban on fresh recruitment! You will never get an additional soul.

But come a bomb blast, overnight the very ‘babu’s are made to bend over backwards by the powers that be to sanction new police stations, additional manpower, vehicles and equipment. If one were to scan through the last five decades of ma-power structure in Delhi police and the stages of new creation and sanction of posts, what I have stated will be amply borne out.

One sees that things in England are no different. The recent Al Qaeda attributed bomb blasts in the London Metro and a bus on 7 July and some more attempted two weeks later, have shaken the British law and order machinery out of its complacency to face reality and measure up to actual ground conditions and field realities. Scotland Yard is to create a Counter-Terrorist Command of 2000 specialist officers to fight the threat posed by Al Qaeda and similar groups. Apparently this is to be created by merging the existing Anti-Terrorist Branch and the Special Branch and augmenting this strength with an additional 500 officers.

The Special Branch in Scotland Yard in itself was a creation of March 1883 to fight the Fenian bombing campaign. Established more than 120 years ago to combat militant Irish Republicanism, it was originally titled the Metropolitan Police Special Irish Branch. Officially titled SO12, its current mandate is to gather, collate, analyse and exploit intelligence on extremist political and terrorist activity.

Like our own Intelligence Bureau in India, the Special Branch in the UK has a national structure with units of police forces around the country. It was a branch of the SB that guarded Salman Rushdie for years after the Khomeini fatwa on his life. But unlike in India where there are crazily large Security Units within every State Police forces and a plethora of them at the Centre’s command, the SB in England also provides protection for senior government figures and recently also to be merged with the unit that protects the Royal Family and Diplomats. In addition, the Branch also polices ports and airports, for all of which we in India have opened up separate and vast establishments considering the size of our requirements.

According to the plan announced in London last week, the merger of the existing units and creation of the new Counter-Terrorist Command is part of a three-year plan to transform London policing. Though an exercise along these lines was already afoot since February this year, a need to review the anti-terrorist provisions has been felt after the July bombings. This, in the wake of an urgent realisation that the existing manpower and resources with the anti-terrorist arm are inadequate to meet the needs of investigation and follow-up presented by situations of the likes of the recent bombings.

A police spokesman was quoted in the London papers as telling media that the July 7 bombings made the police review the numbers and the capacity of their resources in the face of investigating 52 murders, conducting a manhunt, trying to prevent another attack, searching for possible associates and working at a pace never known or seen before. “In addition, there were multiple sites, multiple locations, and a footprint that was around the world.”

Reportedly the investigative and intelligence arms of the police counter-terrorist effort will come under one command and will continue to work closely with MI5, and the new unit will have responsibility for terrorist investigations nationwide.

Another change announced, is in the pattern of patrolling – constables henceforth would patrol alone rather than in pairs, making beat officers more accessible to the public. Focus groups are said to have observed that the public can be deterred from approaching officers in pairs, especially when they are seemingly engrossed in conversation. However to ensure officers’ safety, they will patrol within sight of each other, perhaps on opposite sides of the street.

Among other steps envisaged, the introduction of neighbourhood police teams will be speeded up with each of the 624 council wards in London given its own team of three officers and three community support officers. Officers and support staff will move into more modern buildings, possibly in industrial estates with custody centres (a better name than our ‘jails’ and ‘lock-ups’). A high street presence would be maintained in shop-fronts, colleges and other public buildings.

Many support roles are envisaged to be ‘civilianised’ with the introduction of detention staff and other roles to free officers for policing tasks. All this, “…in an effort to move police personnel presently in support services to front-line services. A package envisioned to deliver safer neighbourhoods to every one in London, that takes people out of their offices and puts them on the streets, that asks officers to walk as much as possible themselves so they are accessible to the public – as part of all modernisation of the Metropolitan Police.”

900 words: 12.09.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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