Saturday, 25 July 2009

Armed Robbery Part 2

I am really impressed by the quality of comments on the Armed Robbery post, below, which was in turn prompted by some valid comments from ex pat British officer, PC Copperfield, now serving in Canada. Pc Copperfield was commenting on my post, Risk Assesments are Risky. He will be familiar with this and will once again be glad that he has a .40cal Glock pistol for company whilst out on patrol - so would I!

From our armchairs, desks or laptops we seem to have pretty much topped this one off and have got very close to a workable solution, or at least the plan thereof. Insp LT Hobbes, ably assisted by Blue Eyes had got very close to the plan that was utilised and there was equally sound logic with very well considered comments from Conan and David. Conan's suggestion of snipers (referred to as `riflemen` in the polis) are excellent spotters and would be a serious consideration but the rules of engagement would mitigate against the use of these weapons, as would other technicalities that I won't divulge due to the need for tactical confidentiality. However, I’m so impressed I’m almost ready to sign up to the main plan and options and allow officers with real firearms to go and get them. The difference is that on this occasion I have nothing to lose sleep over. I’m glad I quit while I was ahead. Incidentally, Powdergirl, the sort of thing you suggested is actually not far from reality, particularly relating to the activities of drug dealers. I’ve heard of some instances where the tactic of an up-front confrontation on a villains doorstep has been used, where they were put on notice that their activities are known about. Not in my town, I should add..

Hopefully, blog visitors of a non-police persuasion will have had a little peek into the decision making processes of these sorts of tasks. If you’re from a place where guns and the police are `bread and butter` you may be amazed at the list of `what if's` we are required to have an answer for, over here in Merrie England, Bonnie Scotland and er Wales, but you clearly already realise that just because your police are all armed, all the time, doesn’t solve this problem alone. Guns on the belts of police officers are primarily for their personal protection. Arresting these cunning, determined nasty bastards needs teamwork, skill, lots of training, specialised equipment and communications and above all courage under fire. Officers on routine patrol may have many, if not all, of these qualities but on these pre-planned tasks against these type of people, all of the required skills have to be drawn together into one cohesive unit to stand a chance of planned success, hence the existence of tactical teams like those pictured above, in all modern police forces. So, I’ll add a little more info and bring you closer to the chosen option:

The ACC initially wants us to just `blow the job out`, meaning to make it obvious to the blaggers that we know about the job so that they don’t do it. He asks why we don’t just put a marked police unit outside the bank at the allotted time? Not good Sir. Consider this: The gang are well drilled and have their escape well planned and have already shown that they were of such ferocity and determination that they would think nothing of blasting a security guard, so why not blast the police? The penalty is exactly the same for shooting a police officer, but they still have to be caught and convicted and penalties don’t compensate individuals for loss of eyes, limbs or their life. Also, what about the risk to the informant when the gang twigs its been grassed up, surely we have a duty to try and protect him from being kneecapped or topped? And what of their previous victims and the police forces wanting to bring these violent thugs to justice? Or the next town in the next police area that gets hit and another guard gets shot because we just played `pass the parcel`? What of our liability in respect of Health and Safety? Isn’t that what the Met got saddled with after the De Menezes homicide? OK that’s unfair because this job was a while before suicide bombers hit the UK. Bit trickier than checking the typing pool for wobbly chairs or a loose carpet isn’t it though? OK, we won’t blow the job out.

Then why don’t we let them do it and then get them on the way out of town in a safe area? This is getting warm, but they may shoot someone in the bank or another guard and a passing MoP with her babe in arms may get hit by a stray blast from a sawn-off – these people are not trained police marksmen who can be sued if they make an error, plus they don’t care about anyone else’s safety. Dead guard? Dead police? Dead MoP? Same penalty. No, we must be seen to prevent the crime, after all its the primary objective of an efficient police. Fortunately an attempt carries the same penalty as the full offence, but they have to do things more than just `preparatory`. What a legal minefield we have to work around in this liberal democracy of ours. The price of freedom ain’t cheap.

So we don’t want them getting in the bank, we don’t want to arrest them before they get there because we then only have a conspiracy/possible possession of firearms (we don’t know if they collect them en route as part of a counter-surveillance measure) and we have no firm evidence linking them directly with the previous jobs, only the informant drip- feeding bits of information for this current job and some, as yet, unproved intelligence. Its just not enough to know in our hearts its them, we have to prove it. All of the comments made after Armed Robbery part 1 were right on the money as far as safety of the public is concerned. It is just not enough for the police to step into the spotlight with guns drawn and call on the baddies to surrender. If this were to happen and the response was, `You’ll never take me alive copper` followed by a blast from handguns and sawn off shotguns loaded with 00-buck, the High Street would be full of flying lead, police would be obliged to return fire to defend themselves and the world could be turning bright red all around. The aftermath and Daily Laim headlines would reveal a pre-planned operation where the police, by their actions, provoked a shoot out resulting in `x` innocent victims, casualties of a gung ho bungling police force. If, by pure luck, only the villains got killed, then the headlines would be of heroics, until the follow up stories revealed `what could have happened`. It is against this background that ACC’s have a weather eye.

Consensus seems to lean towards us plotting up the location with armed arrest teams concealed in the immediate area, with the clearly defined objective of safeguarding the security van crew and the public from reckless armed criminals who may hurt them anyway, if the police aren’t there to stop them. We’ll place a high visibility police unit on foot patrol in the High Street, just like any other day, but at a safe distance from the bank with instructions to go no closer than a set point and to then act, with others in support nearby, in a rapid cordon manoeuvre to cut off the High Street and clear public from the immediate area if called upon. Why this? Well it was argued that in the event they went ahead this would indicate that they were so determined to commit the crime that they ignored the presence of a uniformed patrol officer. It was not quite blowing out the job but it was argued as useful, for any subsequent post incident enquiry, that an attempt was made to deter the gang (?). We have our Air Support unit on patrol at a discrete distance and altitude. We have Dog Units and a surveillance unit acting to give us accurate information as to their movements. Armed arrest teams will intervene to protect the guards and prevent threats to life and, if practicable, arrest, but if not practicable will allow them to clear the crowded area of the High Street, pursue in a follow operation of armed mobile units, guided by the Air Support Unit and `Stinger` units on strategic exit routes. Objective, to stop and arrest at a location where there is minimum risk to the general public. The people who decide this location are the frontline officers in the arrest team vehicles. No more talk of tactics in detail.

The bottom line is that several options based on this premise would be acceptable and might work, but this plan also has its weaknesses and could be challenged. Time, place, resources and any number of other factors will determine the lengths that one goes to, to protect the public and police involved. The plan has to show that we considered all the likely risks, discussed them in depth and took all reasonable steps to minimise them – some can be eliminated altogether, but rarely can all of them, especially as the criminals never attend the briefing and so don’t always do what is expected of them. Some jobs are even performed in the `half dark` because of the sensitivity of information and of the need to protect sources and it is these that, in my time on firearms operations, have proved to be the most frustrating. The plan has to be committed to paper and signed off by a senior officer. Oh the responsibility.

This `tabletop exercise` was little bit of fun and was in respect of an armed robbery. Terrorists and suicide bombers take a little more planning, but the principles are the same - how can the police stop a crime of an atrocious nature and safeguard the public, and themselves, at the same time? You'll need a big postcard to send in your answers.

14 comments:

Conan the Librarian™ said...

My comment is forgotten as I see the word verification: lauperps

Any hoo, I still think a sniper or three would would ensure a quick end to any exchange of fire. Sulk.

Hogday said...

Conan, You did get a mention. I think I cut and pasted in the amended version but added the original. I will of course correct it immediately. Come out of the sulk at once.

Conan the Librarian™ said...

Ah the vagaries o' the English tung.
What I meant was "I forgot what I was going to say when I seen the WV"
What you seen "The b******d didnae mention me"
LOL Consider me unsulked!

Inspector Leviathan Hobbes said...

I think I contracted lauperps when a child. Very nasty and it does distract you!

I love being silver at firearms jobs, whether planned or spontaneous. The guys with the guns really do know their stuff, and only on the odd occasion do I have to reign them in.

One thing I've learnt, is never, ever inform the on-call SMT. They mess it up, not by being at the scene, but from the comfort of their home. You can't direct a job from home. If asked, I always say I never got the opportunity to inform them, "I was too busy Sir, things were developing so quickly".

Pre-planned can be a pain, and very rarely does it follow the strategy set out by the Gold Commander. If asked I always say, "I was too busy Sir..."

Ooh, I've got thonetor as my WV. I think I contracted that in Bangkok.

Hogday said...

Thanks Conan. I'd hate to upset the Clansmen, especially as they're all talking to each other this weekend ;)

LTH: A very interesting and totally valid point re Gold Command. Boy, I could write another lengthy post about that one and how the interfering armchair `general` almost totally banjaxed a drugs interdiction job of ours. When I thumped the table in frustration at an 0300hrs mid-task briefing and told him he can't dictate tactics from 40 miles away and must leave it to Silver, I got the `death stare` until the Captain from the SBS, sat next to me, agreed with me 100%. The bastard still got me, much much later, in the back as these senior officer egotisical types always do!

powdergirl said...

Non-police persuasion? Is that a race?
Did you just profile me?

Kidding aside, wouldn't knocking on doors to discourage drug dealers just have the effect of chasing them off to some other part of the city and making them someone else's problem?

My wv is 'rouse' means I should get off my butt and do something useful, I suppose.

This has been a very interesting mini- series HD.

Blue Eyes said...

The bastard still got me, much much later, in the back as these senior officer egotisical types always do!

The senior person *always* wins, Mr H. They have more levers. One has to play the long game...

Enjoyed the post. It's nice to see a bit of how the thinking works although not enough for me to thwart The Finest when I decide I need a bit of extra pocket money :-(

Hogday said...

Dear PG! If I was profiling I'd be asking questions like, "He's how old? Does he still live with his mother? Is he a trainspotter? Does he like collecting old bus conductor's ticket machines? :-0
Glad you liked the little tabletop exercise - and there is a term for the valid point you raised, it's called `displacement` - I love experts, although I couldn't eat a whole one.

Blue: Hell hath no fury like a senior officer who thinks someone may have made him look stoopid. When will they ever learn that it's so much better if they allow the individuals under their command to flourish? "Use The Force, Luke" ;)

Blue Eyes said...

It's not just in the po-lice. The bosses are always under the illusion that they are senior because they are better and that because they are senior they always know more and are able to make better decisions than their underlings. Somehow as soon as they get to the top they forget that they also started at the bottom and got annoyed with their bosses for doing exactly the same.

A great sage once summed the whole process up to me. He said "that's just British industry". All this has happened before, all this will happen again.

How depressing.

Hogday said...

As you say, Blue, it is depressing.

Cutting and pasting from a comment I left on Insp Hobbes's leadership post: (you know how I love the sound of my own voice ;)

once promoted, I took the view that it was I who worked for the people I supervised, not the other way round. My joy came from helping them become as good as they could be but to be ready to lead by example when necessary – too little and you are a waste of space, too much and you can be a pain in the arse, or worse, a liability. The higher in rank I found myself then the more people I had to work for and my job became one of clearing obstructions from the path of those who were at the sharp end so they could do their job more easily and, in so doing, make us all look good.

It seemed so simple and it worked for me.

Wolfman George said...

I just wandered over here from It Don't Make Sense.

I not a law enforcement officer (I don't even play one on T.V) and I must admit that I haven't read all the suggestions to this particular scenario.

However, I was just wondering. Would it be possible to nab one (or more) of the gang on the way to the robbers on a lesser charge? If done correctly it could be made to look like an unrelated arrest and would thus protect the informant. Also, the arrest would then be done at a time and location of the police's choosing, not the robbers.

Hogday said...

Hi Wolfman George. Lots of options were thrashed out but we, as the tac team, were merely providing the arrest service for the investigation team. Certain suggestions were rejected by the senior investigating officer for all sorts of reasons, some of which we were not privy to. The main problem with prior intervention is the fear of ending up trying to present a case of `conspiracy to commit armed robbery`, the levels of proof required being very lengthy and notoriously difficult to convict. They wanted these animals to go away for a worthwhile period of time and, sadly, that just doesn't seem to happen much anymore! Plus, they were a very surveillance conscious and highly aware outfit. The slightest whiff and the informant is wasted. The need to take them down was pressing as they had nearly killed already. It sounded like the arrest was the easiest part!

You might want to read this from my archives.

I really appreciate your visit and for taking the time to make such a valid comment.

Wolfman George said...

Not a problem Hogday! Like I said, I'm an amateur!

It is just that I was reminded of the fact that despite all of the criminal wrongdoing Al Capone did, it was finally charges of income tax evasion which sent him to Alcatraz!

I'll check out your archieves.

Hogday said...

So true re Capone! Who cares which law nails them, so long as someone nails them.