Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Carnival and Murder on London's Streets. Policing London

The second instalment of the groundbreaking documentary about London's Metropolitan Police Aired last night and this time it centred on a murder enquiry, catching a prolific sexual offender, and policing the biggest street festival in Europe , Notting Hill Carnival.

Yet again I was struck by the calm authority of the officers involved even in inflammatory situations. Notting Hill Carnival is by definition a massive undertaking and it is the single biggest policing event in the Met calendar, the streets in a small area of one of the most affluent areas of London are deluged by partygoers for a whole weekend. 

Balancing the needs of revellers, residents and the potential for crime cost the MPS  £6.2 million with 5500 cops on the ground, in surveillance and in the air across the weekend and up to a million people attending, with 2000 people every two minutes exiting tube stations in that area of London.

Just imagine the cost in 2012 when London hosted the Olympics!

It was great to see the police addressing the issues that the local residents were most worried about, the primary one which rather disgusted me was the issue of urination and excrement in the stairwells and gardens of the beautiful  Georgian Townhouses of Notting Hill... think Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in the film of the same name. The fact that residents have to padlock their gates
and board up the front of their houses so they become  prisoners in their own homes is horrendous. 

The main force of the operation was to pre-emptively strike at trouble makers and the tactics of the TSG proved that crowd control is quite possible without the threat of firearms with appropriate use of CCTV and Helicopter cover.  A gentler approach to the inevitable drink and cannabis use meant that dangerous groups intent on violence were more easily routed and only 210 arrests were made down on 300 last year and violence was down. It was also gratifying that commissioner Bernard  Hogan - Howe was on the ground in the crowds and encouraging his officers and bantering with the crowds!

CCTV evidence proved vital in the tracking down of four out of seven suspects in a murder of mistaken identity, a young man is stabbed, leaving behind a four year old daughter. The images from street, ATM and even night buses, it's not like the TV, suspects skipped the country , they were not in when raids went down, but in the end  arrests were made and prison sentences passed down. The aftershocks on the poor victim's family were a great counterpoint to the frustration of the officers when leads go cold, their grief was the encouragement needed to soldier on.

Equally satisfying was the investigation into a an escalating sexual offender who had taken to following Muslim women home and assaulting  them and attempting to rape them. Thankfully these women had the presence of mind to fight him off and the fact that there were kids present probably saved them. The Detective Sergeant who was after him was driven and steadfast and I sincerely hope if ever I am victim of an assault that she is my investigating officer. The case broke when a bookmaker's assistant said that a customer who fit the description  had made sexually aggressive advances and photo fit identity pictures were shown to a victim and she categorically identified him.  A job well done.  

Today I obtained some reaction from the officers involved in this episode.

Meet the cast of The Met - episode two 16.06.15 
In this week's episode of The Met: Policing London, we saw how important CCTV is in policing public events, and how it helped solve two very serious crimes. We spoke to former and current officers who appeared in episode two, to find out what they thought of the show.
Name: Mark Bird
Job title: Chief Superintendent 
Years with the Met: 12
Career to date: Mark joined in 2003 as an inspector on the Territorial Support Group. He moved to Traffic as chief inspector before transferring to Hackney as superintendent and then the firearms command. Mark was then promoted to chief superintendent on the Taskforce and took on the role of silver commander for the Notting Hill Carnival. He's currently overseeing the Air Support Unit's migration to the National Police Air Service.
"I'd say the documentary shows the carnival as a real challenge, not just for the Met but also for local residents. Anyone who has to police it knows it's a challenging couple of days.
I think doing a documentary like this is a bit of a gamble. There could be an adverse reaction to it, but it does show what a difficult job we do and the complexity of working in London. It also shows that it's not a question of just putting officers on the beat and letting them get on with it, there's a lot more to it than that.
Seeing yourself on TV you're always your own worse critic. There's one comment I make which will come back to haunt me, where I try to explain how people try to get knives past the police and I say that intelligence suggests they use a certain kind of tape. I'm expecting a hundred texts about that! 
Overall, I think people will see the documentary for what it is: the BBC's intention to show how difficult it is to police and meet everyone's needs – the public's, everyone involved with the carnival and, of course, the officers'."
Name: Tracey Miller
Job title: Detective Inspector 
Years with the Met: 18
Career to date: Tracey began her Met career as a constable in Brixton, spending four years in Lambeth borough. Promoted to sergeant, she spent two years in Hounslow before joining the Specialist Crime directorate as detective sergeant. In 2011, Tracey moved to Kingston borough and then back to Lambeth, where she was featured in the documentary. In 2014, she was promoted to detective inspector, managing sex offenders and investigating missing persons and cases of child sexual exploitation. 
"I thought the episode was very good and showed the Met in quite a good light. There's a general sense with the public that CCTV cameras don't really do any good, but my crime wouldn't have been solved if it hadn't been for CCTV.
While in general it shows my investigation, it's difficult to portray the complexities. The documentary didn't show a lot of the complicated planning behind it. I understand why they couldn't feature everything, but I felt that it was some of my best detective work and it wasn't included!
One thing the documentary doesn't show is that it's a real team effort. I appreciate a lot of my colleagues didn't want to be filmed and therefore the focus was on me, but my team worked incredibly hard. 
You also don't see the effect the conviction has on the victims. One of the victims told an officer that she was going to put her children to sleep in their own beds for the first time. It's things like that which make you realise what a massive impact this had on the victims' lives.
I was certainly quite apprehensive about being in the documentary. You don't want to put your foot in your mouth; you want to show that you're doing your job to the best of your ability. You get used to the camera being around. I think it even helped with my promotion, because by the time I went for my interview I was so used to answering so many questions! 
From watching the show I hope the public see that we really care, we want to do our job, that we catch suspects and we look after the victims. And also that we're human; we see unpleasant things but remain professional throughout." 
Name: John Sandlin 
Job title: Detective Chief Inspector (retired)
Years with the Met: 30
Career to date: John joined the Met in 1984, working as a constable at Forest Gate. He spent six years as a sergeant at Bethnal Green and a year at Dagenham before joining the Child Protection Unit. Almost four years later he was selected to become a detective sergeant, spending four years at Redbridge. In 2002 he was promoted to detective inspector and joined the homicide command in 2004. In 2010 he was promoted to DCI. He retired in January 2015 and now works for the Security Industry Authority. 
"Even though I've met them numerous times, seeing again the effect of Christopher Foster's murder on his family was very moving. I don't think people appreciate how much something like that affects a family. 
The programme shows how important it was for us to catch the guys who murdered him; if they'd gotten away with it, it could have caused people to lose confidence in the police.
Although the programme documented the investigation well, there was a lot of painstaking work that wasn't shown or couldn't be shown. For example, the amount of analysis we carried out into suspects' phone records and analysis of car movements through ANPR [automatic number plate recognition] data were some of the crucial things not covered. Without these some of the suspects would not have been charged, we had no forensic evidence and no witnesses who could either name or identify any of Christopher's attackers. Also, how the family was supported by the police could have come across a bit more. 
However, it did show the real-life, day-to-day strains and stresses of the Met. I'd like to think because of the show the public will see how difficult police work is and the difficult decisions officers make. 
I believe the show was a good thing for the Met to do, although I don't think you could do it too regularly. Understandably, the producers asked a lot of questions, but sometimes you just wanted a bit of peace and quiet to think about things and get on with the job in hand. The fact that other team members were also interviewed on the programme portrayed that this was a team effort. However, it could not capture all of the support and hard work from the team that enabled Christopher's attackers to be brought to justice."

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