Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Armed Robbery

My last post, Risk Assessments Can Be Risky, was in response to something I read by PC Ellie Bloggs on the subject of the vortex of caution and accountability one can find one`s self being sucked into as a frontline police supervisor. Comments from ex pat, ex Britcop and published author, PC Copperfield (now of an Alberta Canada PD) on that post, showed how much simpler it can be in a country where all police officers are armed with a self loading pistol. It has the effect of raising the threshold so that a call to a possible sighting of a possible firearm doesn't set in motion the command-chain juggernaut that happens in UK PLC. In this way, the more `run of the mill` calls where a firearm `may have been seen` (a very commonplace call) are responded to in a much quicker and less bureaucratic way because all police are armed for their own (and the public's) protection. The spin off is that if the subject happens to be innocent, as in my post's example, he gets a couple of real firearms pointed at him and will be ordered to kneel or lie down in the street (or dragged to the ground if he doesn't comply) and be cuffed while the information given in the original call is checked out. This would happen in the UK in a very similar manner if armed officers are deployed. When this happens to an innocent person in the UK, saying "sorry" is rarely enough, although when this happened to me many years ago my `victim` was just so delighted that we didn't kill him (as would have happened in his own country, Pakistan as it happened) he didn't even complain about his dislocated shoulder, but I think that can be saved for another bedtime story. At least doing things PC Copperfield's way the officer has a fighting chance of surviving if the call turns out to be a bad one. His main point was that the decision to draw the firearm and point it at someone is a matter for the individual officer and that individual officers perception of the threat. One officer might draw his weapon, another may choose to keep her pistol holstered. Up close and personal on the street, only they can decide and in his force in Canada they are given that option. In the UK, at least up until I quit a few years back, the perceived threat of a firearm went through many ranks before a decision was made to either deploy an Armed Response Vehicle or deny it and let the officers on the ground devise their own plan. Sometimes the decision to arm and deploy an ARV was obvious and pretty much instant, but the obvious calls weren't the problem calls - they were also in the minority. I ought to mention that even though a police force might have all its officers armed with sidearms, it still has to maintain `Tactical Units` where the officers are trained to a much higher level of competency and skill at arms than the standard patrol officer. Pre-planned jobs to deal with armed criminals, hostages and the like or counter terrorism tasks right up to the point where the risk assessment is to hand over the situation to military special forces, will always fall to Tactical Firearms Teams, Tactical Advisers and a senior officer in overall command. The junior ranks facing spontaneous firearms or deadly weapon incidents on the street do not have that luxury. Apart from the obvious need for highly skilled professionals to carry firearms, this is also a matter of economics. By having a small number of highly trained officers, a much greater shooting skill level and tactical effectiveness can be achieved as the force can allow much more training time and equipment. If every officer in the UK were armed they would be lucky to receive more than a days training a year on top of the need to requalify once or twice. There would just not be the time allocated to do any more than the very basics. Shooting standards would, as a result, have to be set at a lower level than is currently the case. Training, although an investment, is also viewed as a heavy burden on a force's budget. Something would have to give, somewhere. However, this was not my point, nor was it PC Copperfields either so I'll leave it there. The picture at the top is of a typical English High Street. Information has been received that there will be an armed robbery within a few days, by a team of `top ten nasty` blaggers who are suspected of committing a string of robberies across several force areas. They do not hesitate to shoot security guards, in the legs, who show the slightest resistance. One has already been hospitalised by being blasted by a sawn off shot gun loaded with heavy buckshot - like being shot by nine handguns simultaneously. He was lucky he didn't bleed to death. The informant has told the CID that they plan to hit a security van as it arrives to collect the days takings from two banks. The first is the 2nd to last red brick building on the far side of the street. The second bank is on the opposite side and just a few yards further down. This will happen at about 3pm and the street will look pretty much like it does in the picture, except that a local school will have turned out by this time and there will be a lot of teenagers wending their way home via the shops to add to the crowds of pedestrians. Your task is to devise a plan to arrest the armed robbers. Hint: Uppermost in policy and planning will be the need to ensure you act in the interests of the public, who's safety is always number one, so before you think up the classic police ambush plan remember that if you jump out of cover shouting armed police and someone opens fire at you and a few stray rounds hit a young mother and her 2 yr old child, you'd better have another think before you sign up to that one. I'll leave that as food for thought, after all, I don't have to worry about this stuff anymore. Feel free to submit your questions or plan in the comments section. After all, its just a bit of fun.


Conan the Librarian™ said...

A sniper or three, one of them where the picture was taken, a boiler "malfunction" in the school and some "roadworks".
Or is that too purely a military solution?Not giving the poor dears their human rights and such?

WV morked heh hehe

Blue Eyes said...

Do we know what day they are likely to strike?

Hogday said...

Conan: Thinking like a tactician, Sir! But no riflemen. They must be given the opportunity to surrender as you guessed ;) Plus, the bank staff are also MoP's requiring protection from just gets worse and worse !

Blue: It's informant driven. We may get a few hrs notice, but most def at that time. Bugger isn't it.

Blue Eyes said...

OK so if you don't know when it's going to happen my idea of having only plain clothes officers inside the bank doesn't work.

I think the safest thing to do is allow the bank robbery to happen. All the bank employees are told not to resist. Then you stop the get away vehicle once it is out of the town centre so that there are no bystanders to get hurt.

That way you only need a couple of officers on the high street for observation purposes. Once it all goes down those on standby out of the way can spring into action.

Somehow we need to minimise the number of people in the immediate area without either letting them know what is likely to happen or leading the robbers themselves to guess. I agree with Conan can't there be some distraction to keep as many away as possible? Perhaps an impromptu "blue light day" at the school??

Hogday said...

Good stuff Blue. Now consider what happens if, by allowing the robbery to happen, a guard or member of the bank staff or passing MoP is shot and killed before police can intervene. Have a read of this and I draw your attention to the wonderful final sentence.

Blue Eyes said...

Well I was going on the basis of not having the resources to have firearms officers sitting outside the bank waiting for it to happen, which sounds like what happened in that case. Plus, in that case wasn't there a real chance that it could have gone seriously pear shaped? I am not criticising at all I think the police did a marvellous job in that incident in the article but what would have happened, say, if the marksman had missed and the other gang members had gone on a shooting spree?

Hogday said...

Hi Blue (I'm in between jobs doing this stuff!). No, my scenario was very much in the `pre-planned` category. And yes, you are quite correct in that although the Chandlers Ford job was successful, one stray round or three into someones living room or push chair and it could all go horribly, horribly wrong. The blaggers, of course, never attend the police briefing and so don't know what they are supposed to do.

OK, my next point to consider is YOUR very point: The fact that when the police challenge the gang in order to arrest them, this could indeed cause a shoot-out in a High Street. In America everyone would hit the deck anyway, but in the UK people start looking for the movie crew.

Anonymous said...

Your last statement re hitting the deck in the states is sad but true. Unfortunately it's the current nature of society.

Risk mitigation in the scenario you described is a 3 legged stool; time, money and resources. In order to mitigate the risk of injury or death to an innocent bystander all 3 have to be in place. The problem is all 3 of those are in short supply for police departments.

David said...

The priorities have to be:
1-Public safety
2-Police officer safety
3-Arrest the blaggers.
Having a good idea who the bad boys are would it be possible to stop them on the way to the area?
I know we cant be sure of how many there are and how many vehicles they have but stopping them outside a built-up area seems preferable to a potential blood-bath on a busy High Street. The downside is that they cant be sent down for armed-robber (the one they were planning anyway) but surely they would get done for possession of firearms or I am totally naive?

Hogday said...

KY: Sound points and very true over here too.

David: Excellent logic and your 3 points are straight out of the police use of firearms manual. Our chief officer wanted to go for your option (conspiracy to commit robbery). The police force who wanted these guys were unhappy (as we would've been), because proving a conspiracy in court is a nightmare. It's sometimes hard enough getting a conviction on catching them in the act, but getting them in the act, but just before they had a chance to use their weapons, is what we were tasked to do. Tricky!

Inspector Leviathan Hobbes said...

Bloody hell HDA, can't you give us a difficult one (I jest). First of all, as duty officer, I'd take a period of A/L to cover the time the robbery is expected to happen, other than that, the strategy would have to be;

1. Minimise risk to the public - including the bank's employees.

2. Maximise safety to the police officers.

3. Apprehend offenders.

4. Secure evidence.

It's a very difficult one. If we knew the address of the robbers, I'd expect surveillance and an op on that address with armed support. As soon as it looked as though they were moving off to do the robbery, I'd want a hard stop. I take on board what you say about the difficulties in court with conspiracy, but I know we've been criticised for allowing life-threatening events to progress to the stage where a life has either been taken or shots exchanged. Our duty of care in my strategy is to the public, and if I didn't do that my pips would be gone...or I'd get promoted for making a f*ck up like all the others do!

If no address is known, I'd go along with having one member of staff in the bank with armed officers substituting the remaining staff. A difficult one, but you'd need one member to still serve, and officers there to protect them. This is if we're going down the lines of getting them in the act.

However, once the robbery had taken place, with the full compliance of the officers and staff members, it'd be the helicopter doing a follow and ARV's in the area until the robbers are in a depopulated place where a hard stop would meet my strategy above.

There is still a slight risk with having a staff member, but as I'm 'minimising risk' to the public I'd be prepared to argue that I've done that. They'd have bullet-proof vest and be told not to mess it up (the job, not the vest). It could even be that there are officers who are ex-bank employees who could stooge, I know a few, so it's not beyond the realms of possibility.

I would even be of a mind to allow the robbers to get back to their safe house and to contain that address, the only problem being is there may be family members etc in that address who would fall into point 1 of my strategy.

So, I'll go along with one staff member, armed officers in the bank, giving them the money, helicopter follow until they're in a low-risk area, hard stop by ARVs. Tea, medals and biscuits with the chief onstable in the morning.

Blue Eyes said...

I'm glad that Mr Hobbes agrees with me. Perhaps I should request an application form ;-)

powdergirl said...

Well sir, I have no plan, but that sure is an interesting spin down Police Work Lane.

I did wonder though, if perhaps you could just politely ask the pricks to not rob banks anymore?

Just a thought.

Hogday said...

This has developed into a good plan, with Insp LTH keeping a close eye on how we would be judged and how our planning would be scrutinised by the eager legals should one villain or MoP (or maybe even a police officer) be unnecessarily harmed. LTH has, as one would expect of a skilled professional, pulled together what was eventually agreed upon - yes, you guessed it, this was a real job presented to me and my gang to try and fix.

I'm off to visit in-laws across the Pennines in a mo, but I'll be back tonight. Any more contributions then feel free to keep them coming. Not wishing to be melodramatic, but I am mindful not to divulge anything that could put the present day knights-in-blue at risk from the unscrupulous out there in the `university of crime`, as I know all the top blaggers read my blog lol. TTFN.

Blue Eyes said...

Shoot the hostage, take him out of the equation.