Our first "official" outing was Tuesday afternoon. We met with Constable Richard Watson at the Special Operations Room. He took us through some basic policing stuff and then he explained a little bit of what he did. Today, he met us at a small museum that displays the Metropolitan Police history. Through the two visits, I have learned several interesting facts about the metropolitan police. The example for our policing system is the Metropolitan Police, so I find it interesting how our two policing models differ.
The first interesting tidbit I picked up is that the Metropolitan Police works in very close proximity with the fire department and the ambulance services. First of all, these three services are separate in London. We combine fire and rescue in America. One of the ways these three different services work together is through the communications room we visited. This room was massive. It was probably as big as the top floor of Old Admin (where our Justice Studies Department is) and it is all pods of computers and video screens. Basically, this room is used for what we call dispatch. They get 999 calls (their version of 911) and they also coordinate police efforts in this room. If something happens while the police are out and about and somebody needs the ambulance or the fire department, they have to radio to this room and the people in it make sure to get the people in the right area. They also use this room during events to ensure that police efforts are appropriately coordinated.
Another interesting bit I learned is that the operations room we visited can be fully operational during any major event. When the Olympics was hosted in London, the huge room we saw AND the overflow room was filled with officers. Thousands of camera feeds throughout London are fed into this room, so the operators in the room can find almost anybody, any time of the day (if they find the need).
A different part of our visits that I found interesting is how police presence is different than ours. Generally, ours carry tasers, pepper spray, and one or two guns - at a minimum! Most metropolitan officers carry a set of handcuffs and a collapsible truncheon. In the words of Constable Watson: "We're nice officers - we use words." I thought this was an interesting statement just because it is probably true. Just from the short time I've been in London, I haven't met a hostile police officer. I haven't heard stories of officers shooting people without cause. I also haven't seen any officers carrying guns, besides the few at the airport. The main weapon of police officers in London is their words. If they want to persuade somebody, they can. Police violence isn't nearly as rampant in London as it is in America.
These few things are just the highlights of what I took away from the past couple of days. I could probably write two or three blogs about what I saw, but I think the main points will give you some idea of what we learned. I look forward to our other visits in the next week!
Constable Watson explaining the different hats.
Constable Watson explaining how the communications work in the Special Operations Room.