Top Cover Spring 2013

Page 8


Around & About


any of us will remember like it was yesterday the horrific events of 7/7. Innocent people going about their daily commute, murdered by terrorists. The following days and weeks left many people nervous about travelling on the London transport network. As a commuter myself, using one of the main London hub stations, Kings Cross, it was apparent soon after the dreadful events that extra security would be required as a deterrent against any other attacks. Within days armed officers from around the Met were posted patrolling railway stations and surrounding areas. It always made logical sense for the British Transport Police to have its own designated armed unit and in February 2012 they introduced their new Firearms Unit, now part of the Counter Terrorism Support Unit, to patrol key hub stations. Made up of serving BTP officers and a number of retired firearms officers from other forces, the unit has gone from strength to strength. Between February 2012 and December 2012 the unit, four teams made up of a sergeant and twelve constables, had carried out some 1359 patrols. I met up with some old friends and new friends on a visit to their base in North London and was impressed with what I saw. Policing our railways has been the responsibility of the British Transport Police since 1830 when it was deemed necessary to police the railway for the protection and safety of passengers and railway staff. With over 1000 miles track and some 3000 stations to police, there is no doubting it’s a mammoth task. Headed up by Chief Constable Andy Trotter, BTP has evolved, probably beyond the wildest imagination of some, and maybe to the displeasure of others. The sight of firearms officers patrolling key rail stations is becoming a familiar one, and it’s plain to see, particularly from those that use stations regularly, that the public is reassured by their presence. There were no doubt ‘gasps’ of dissatisfaction within the more senior ranks about having a firearms capability, but the benefits to public safety and security are immeasurable. It also allows

surrounding force firearms units to concentrate on their own geographical commitments. During the Olympics the BTP Firearms Team worked flat out protecting the public and ensuring that all those using the London rail network felt constantly reassured by their presence. Cheshire Firearms Training delivered the initial firearms courses for the BTP Officers. All officers are trained in the single search system and are constantly developing new tactics and techniques to meet the demands of policing railway stations with firearms. Classification shoots and training are mostly carried out in London working alongside the City of London Police. The Force has recently been informed that they will soon have an interim firearms training license from the Police College. The unit uses Mercedes Vito vans to carry officers to and from stations. The vans have the familiar battenberg livery and yellow dots. As well as the usual plethora of radios, they also carry: •  MOE kit •  Medic packs •  Various shields – short and long •  Ceramic plates •  Ballistic helmets The officers themselves patrol in flat caps, which may look nice in the eyes of some but are totally impractical, and would have to be ditched at the first sign of dealing with any incidents. Their uniform however is practical and smart: •  5.11 cargo trousers •  Black wicking tops •  Keela Jackets •  Lowa Boots Being a new unit has allowed the BTP to evaluate what others use and pick out the best bits. I noticed nothing uniformwise was copied from the Met! Some forces need to wake up and smell the coffee. It does sometimes feel that the people who make decisions on uniform, and I mean the ones that sign it off, bear much resemblance to WW1 Generals! The unit trialed several weapons and decided that the most suitable for the role were: •  Lewis Machine Tool (LMT)

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