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Policing at the 2012 Olympics: Dealing with Crime and Social Disorder
With 6.6 million tickets already sold# out of an expected 9 million total and over 14,000 athletes expected to participate from 205 countries at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, this will be one of the largest Olympics of the new millennium. However, the pressure is on not only to deliver in the sporting arena but also in the streets, in terms of tackling crime and disorder; the question being how will the 2012 Olympics be policed?
Policing has been described as a necessity “carried out by a number of different processes and institutional arrangements”#. I will be reviewing the arrangements made by Olympic organisers to tackle various criminal activities and disorders during the Games, paying special attention to why they have been made and how they will work
However, with another three months to go until the end of the Olympics, how effective the methods were is not yet certain, rather an assessment can be made of how the police plan on securing the Games.
The London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOCOG) aim to arrange “a safe and secure Games that London, the UK and the world can enjoy”# whilst the Home Office Olympic legacy aims to make future sporting events safer#.
The recurring themes of Olympic organisers is the idea that the Games will have a lasting legacy and boost public morale not just for London but for the whole of the UK. The motto for the Games had been revealed as “Inspire a generation”#, whilst David Cameron had promised that security measures would be “sensitive to the spirit of the Games….this will feel like a sporting event with a really serious security operation rather than a security operation with a really serious sporting event”#.
Another motif that organisers want to push is the idea of normality and that the security operating during the 2012 will be a regular method of policing. Olympic Security Coordinator Chris Allison states that the Police will be “locally commanded but centrally coordinated”#. He also summarises the main two ways of meeting Olympic demand; reduction of annual leave and rest days and making use of the skill and rank of special officers#.
There was also a lot of hysteria surrounding policing before and after the bid was won.
One fear vocalised by Green Party member Jenny Jones was whether the Police would be forced to rely on foreign Police forces. She stated that “we need to know whose command they are under and to whom they will be accountable if one of them discharges a firearm”#. However, armed foreign officers are unlikely to be a problem at the Games as Allison promised earlier this year that “the basic planning assumption is that the only people who carry guns on the streets of the UK are British police officers”#. It will be the duty of the UK Police force to guarantee these aims are delivered and ensure these fears are appeased.
The Metropolitan Police was created with The Metropolitan Police Act 1829# to tackle the growing crime within London and it was joint commissioner Sir Richard Mayne who established the nine policing principles#:
1. To prevent crime and disorder
2. To recognise that their power to perform their duties is based on public approval of police actions
3. To recognise that they must secure the public’s respect in order to gain their co-operation
4. To understand that the higher level of co-operation, the lower level of physical force is needed
5. To remain impartial when enforcing the law and offering an unbiased service to members of the public
6. Using minimal but necessary force to ensure obedience to the law when the ‘exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient’#
7. Maintain a good working relationship with the public and reflect the tradition that the police are servant members of the public
8. Maintaining the separation of powers by not overstepping their executive powers or the boundaries between the judiciary and legislature (law interpreters and law makers)
9. To recognise that the test of police efficiency is the ‘absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them’#
A British model of policing is one that is based on these principles mentioned above, with emphasis on accountability, minimum use of force and policing by consent of the public. There are numerous policing models to choose from, with Community Policing being the likeliest preference during the Games. Jeffery Patterson defines it as a “set of police philosophies, strategies, and tactics”# with the central purpose of preventing crime by uniting the Police and Public. This method means officers are working personally with the community rather than focusing on bureaucratic administrative tasks and by actively engaging with the public, the police are demonstrating principles 3 and 7, proving that they are directed to serve the public.
The Police also seek to gain the confidence of visiting nations by integrating officers into the culture of different teams. The initiative shown by the West Midlands Police to create a Jamaican reference group# shows that they are eager to facilitate communication between the incoming athletes in order to develop a harmonious relationship with the wider Jamaican community that will continue after the Olympics have ended.
I think this will prove successful and mutually beneficial for both parties as both sides will be able to engage with each other without fear of hostility and as it overlaps unto the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence, the celebrations will be easier to safeguard with the support of those celebrating.
It is clear Olympic partners such as LOCOG and the Home Office want to engage with local communities, having published numerous information such as how to stay safe# and creating a Olympic Community Relations Team#, who’s role is to ensure that the local community can voice their opinions regarding how the Games are being controlled.
This model of community policing has been preferred since it is the tried-and-tested approach the Police currently used in London, and also achieves the Mayne aims of maintaining a good relationship with the public and gaining public respect and approval.
Another similar model is that of Citizen-focus Policing, which is defined as “delivering a policing service that secures and maintains high levels of satisfaction and confidence through the consistent delivery of a first class policing service that meets the needs of individuals and of communities and provides a service that people value”#. The advantage being that it focuses on the individuals within communities, although it may not work in communities where there are extreme levels of crime and a limited amount of officers to respond to that crime.
The responsibility of the Met Police to the rest of London will be tested during the Games but their dedication to local communities cannot waver. One way the Police will ensure that concurrent duties are carried out is by the introduction of new working/shift patterns in Summer for London officers# and by making use of Olympic reserve officers, Safer Neighbourhood Team officers and members of the Special Constabulary, who would not normally be seen on foot patrols#.
One contrasting model of policing is Zero-tolerance. This model was adapted from Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Windows theory, in which they found that “if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken….one unrepaired broken window is a
signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing”#. This theory was adopted in the US, where the policing of small crimes is done harshly in order to prevent bigger crimes. This mode of deterrence was enforced in New York and had dramatic improvements for the city#, although some commentators link it to the economic growth in the 90s#. Despite this, Zero-tolerance has had minor influence in Britain and I doubt the Police would take this approach during the 2012 Games as it is not in line with the Mayne principle of using “minimal but necessary force to ensure obedience to the law”. Zero-tolerance can hardly be described as necessary since it could result in public outrage and there are other models such as Community Policing which continue to be effective.
A Zero-tolerance approach would not be conducive to gaining public support during the Olympics and quite simply, it doesn’t fit into UK culture.
Although London will be susceptible to various types of criminality this summer, there are three main areas of criminal activity and disorder that I will highlight, which I believe must be policed correctly during the 2012 Olympic Games; terrorism, organised crime and protests.
The Metropolitan Police have carried out a range of security tests to check how it would respond to terrorism as part of the Home Office’s Counter-terrorism programme#. However, it is not the operational side of the Olympics that should be in the spotlight, and the Police should aim to carry out their policing role as low-key as possible. Minister for Crime and Security James Brokenshire stated that “Olympic spirit is what people will remember – not the security”# and this will be true if the police can be discreet but not invisible at the Games.
Nonetheless, with the Olympics less than 3 months away, flaws are still to be found in the organisers ability to detect security threats and an inquiry has been launched after a fake bomb was smuggled into the Olympic Park#. Not only does this highlight a failure by the security staff but it will further fuel comments regarding the inability of organisers of preparing for possible and potential bomb threats.
Some commentators believe the Games have always been under risk and that city has lived under the “shadow of a terror attack”# since the 7/7 bombings, which occurred no more than 24 hours after the win was announced.
Another fear is of lone wolf attackers; individuals who commit acts of terror independent of mainstream terrorist groups. I think these attackers would be of huge concern to UK police, as seen from the previous bombings at Munich 1972 and Atlanta 1996, and after an emergence of attacks in Europe, from the 2011 Norway terror attacks by Anders Breivik to the March 2012 shootings in France by Mohamed Merah. However, terror attacks are always a possibility in London, as in any city; all the Police can do is be prepared, and with a budget having increased from £282 to £553 million#,
the Government are sparing nothing to ensure that they are.
The Olympics will also be an opportunity for specialised criminal acts to be carried out, such as Organised Crime. Organisers are already knowledgeable about the different fraudulent crimes that have occurred in previous Olympics# and are likely to feature this summer such as theft, money laundering and fraud# but it is the other fairly specialist, and frankly unfamiliar crimes, that they need to tackle. Opportunists can take advantage of 2012 to sell fake/non-existent tickets#, creating fake websites# and commit other e-crimes. This is an area the police will have to monitor closely to ensure that they are up-to-date with e-crimes and the ways they can be committed.
Another type of Organised Crime that the Police is working towards preventing at the Olympics is trafficking in its common form of prostitution. The Police have already begun cracking down on prostitution in an attempt to discourage foreign sex workers during the Olympics, as 58 prostitutes have been arrested since the start of the year and 80 brothels have been closed in Newham in the past 18 months#. Although Tower Hamlets council denied that they were targeting vulnerable groups, these actions have been viewed as “cleansing”# as it sends the message that sex workers are unwanted in East London and will not be tolerated.
Social disorder can arise from the inadequate policing of protests, which has persistently been an issue in the UK, and protest groups plan to use the Games as a means of exposure for their causes#.
The Police watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC), published a report in 2009 reviewing the way in which the Police have handled various protests over the years#, the overall conclusion being that the Police are unprepared for dealing with protestors. One such case is the Kingsnorth Climate Camp protest in 2008, in which the Police carried out over 8000 stops and searches on 2000 protesters, the cost of which was estimated at £8.5 million#. Another failure was seen at the 2009 G20 protests, in which the Police were criticised for kettling demonstrators and an officer was charged with manslaughter after the death of a civilian#.
This review criticised the heavy-handed approach of the Police which had not been proven as an effective way of controlling protests, rather it drew criticism from protesters, politicians and the public. Chief Inspector of the HMIC Dennis O’Connor stated that “British police risk losing the battle for the public’s consent if they win public order through tactics that appear to be unfair, aggressive or inconsistent”#.
One of the main concerns regarding policing at the Olympics is how the Police will ensure the Games are safe, whilst also carrying out their normal role of maintaining public security and facilitating a range of summer events such as Wimbledon, the Notting Hill Carnival and music festivals. 70% of the Olympic sporting events will be taking place in London at one of the 12 venues# and an estimated 9,000 Police officers will be required in London on the busiest of days and 12,000 in total around the UK#. As with any event that requires more officer involvement, the Metropolitan force and other teams across the country, will be benefiting from mutual aid, with the hope being that every Police force in the country will help strengthen numbers where needed by providing officers with specialist skills.
Mutual aid is a tried and tested method of placing officers where they are needed most and teams across the country are already preparing to be deployed this summer#. Other methods by which the Association of Chief Police Officers suggest that officers be made available is through the rearranging of annual leave and shift patterns to ensure that enough officers are available to work during the Games. These resolutions aim to deal with any logistical problems that may arise with policing parallel events. Another way the Police will be able to control concurrent events is having each London-based event registered on a London Events Coordination Calendar#, which will enable them to spread their officers and resources within the different locations.
Although the 2011 Riots were in no way related to the Games, there are lessons to be learnt from the event, as the effect it had and continues to have on public confidence and the image of London should not be understated. The Olympic officials who visited London days after the Riots were reportedly shocked by the “apparent inability of the police to stay on top of fast moving situations and the brazen attacks in broad daylight”#, showing that confidence in the police was low in regards to how well they handle emergency situations.
Speaking in September 2011, Home Secretary Theresa May# expressed fears of East London gangs using the Olympics as an opportunity to carry out more acts of criminality. Instead, she restated the importance of learning lessons from the 2011 Riots, in order to prevent similar acts from occurring.
One lesson that the Police will be enforcing is monitoring social networks for signs of organised protest and social disorder#. Olympic Minister Hugh Robertson maintains that “the intelligence led, risk based assessed approach is the best possible way to have a safe and secure Games”#, alluding to intelligence-led policing, in which officers focus on catching offenders. This would be applicable to dealing with large security threats such as terrorism and would specifically test principle 9 regarding how efficiently the police are working.
Not everyone is impressed with Olympic security however, with the main issue being the huge cost. One commentator has described it as “a festival of the global security industry, with a running and jumping contest as a sideshow”# and criticises LOCOG for bring London into disrepute. His main qualm being that the IOC will have too much control over the city, he describes the extreme security measures as highlighting the Government’s “paranoia, budgetary incontinence and corporate greed”#. He goes on to claim that the military exercises carried out in late March “have nothing to do with deterring terrorism”# and would not be effective in preventing suicide bombers, rather it would challenge extremists to put these measures to the test.
Another critic of the cost of Olympic security described it as “inevitably racing hopelessly over-budget”#and agreed with Jenkins that the whole event seems managed by corporate greed#.
I would not agree with these criticisms. Although the Games are running over budget, it’s too early to determine whether it will be money well spent. The police first need to deal with criminal activity and if the proposed methods of Policing prove to be appropriate for the events, they will be deemed to have been successful.
I believe the Police have built on the experience and will strengthen their weaknesses. Mutual aid will play a huge part in how the Police manage the Olympics, but ensuring that each event and area has control procedures in place will be just as important as increasing numbers. There are various stages to the Olympic Games and the first test of UK policing will be seen in regards to the Olympic Torch Relay. Local police teams will have to work alongside the Metropolitan Police force to ensure that the Torch is secure as it is carried by 8,000 Torchbearers along its 70 day journey#.
Although policing by consent, the UK Police force has a tempestuous relationship with the British Public. One method by which the Police tries to improve this relationship is through police accountability, seen in the way in which information to Olympic policing has been made available to the public as a way of sharing police tactics and why they are used. This amount to an realisation of Mayne’s policing principles and be of benefit to both the police, who will work harmoniously with the public, and the public, who will be able to respect and trust in the ability of the Police to manage the Games and future events.
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