I have been in touch with our Home Office contacts regarding changes in security for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The concern many of us had earlier in the year was that private security guards would not have the local knowledge nor the training to carry out security duties satisfactorily – they might not be able to ‘read’ a situation as well as local police officers and would not necessarily know about religious customs and clothing. We were reassured that security guards would be adequately trained and the London 2012 Games would be ‘blue’ – in other words, policed by police officers rather than other personnel.
Now that G4S has been unable to supply sufficient security guards, you will have seen in the news that the armed forces will be filling the gap. I believe this applies only to venue security, although the areas around the various venues may also be affected.
Asst Chief Inspector Tom Wingate of the Olympic Policing Coordination Team, who has attended our meetings and conducted briefings at Scotland Yard, kindly sent me the Home Secretary’s statement last week (which you can download here), along with a further statement:
This is not about policing the streets of London but of venue security. The assurance process that the Home Office has put in place provides robust and effective scrutiny of security planning, including venue security.
- The process also ensures that the challenges which can be expected in an operation of this magnitude and size are being identified and addressed ahead of the Games.
- Security plans have also been tested thoroughly, and while we are confident that all our partners, including G4S, will deliver a safe and secure Games, we are not complacent and will leave nothing to chance.
- Venue security is being delivered by LOCOG (as events organiser), G4S and the military. The Home Office is vigorously holding these parties to account for successful delivery.
- This is a huge operation to protect more that 100 venues. Delivering it is a big challenge.
- Tried and tested contingency plans involving the deployment of military personnel are also in place to ensure the safety of Olympic venues.
It’s clear that the government and LOCOG want to ensure that London is safe and that Londoners will not be policed by the military, but it looks as though the armed forces will be asked to conduct security checks. Tom assures me that he will let us know as soon as operational details have been decided. He has also confirmed that none of the military drafted in for these purposes will be armed.
Let me know if you have any concerns or can offer advice to those responsible for training the military personnel in their new roles. We are also in touch with British Transport Police, which polices the tube and railway network.