HC 1456 Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Robert F Bartlett MA (Cantab), Retired Chief Superintendent

1. I am a long retired chief superintendent from the Surrey Police. A graduate of Churchill College, Cambridge and of the 28 Senior Command Course. I spent many years as a Police Support Unit inspector, a public order ground commander and in my last years of service, had responsibility for public order operations, equipment and training. Training was hard, intensive and costly in terms of vehicles, equipment and man hours. However, such a commitment of resources was seen as vital and a contribution to the national good from an area where inner city rioting was not likely.

2. It has been recognised probably since 1829, that the Metropolitan Police are the “gold standard” for maintaining public order and responding to disorder. In the past it has been almost unknown for the Metropolitan Police to call for mutual aid from forces outside London yet, since the student fee riots, it has become the norm for major events. Why is this? It is probably an indication that the numbers of officers trained for Police Support Unit work in London have been reduced.

3. I was told by a recently retired Police Support Unit inspector that despite a significant increase in numbers of police officers in the Surrey Police (they took responsibility for the Metropolitan Police part of Surrey, in I think 2001) the number of Police Support Units have been reduced from six to four, they no longer train or exercise with the Metropolitan Police nor does the training now include dealing with petrol bombs. I use Surrey as an example but there is little doubt that one force could not reduce their contribution by a third without national acceptance, probably driven by budgetary and manpower restraints. I am sure the current cost of a fully equipped and trained Police Support Unit is known.

4. The rationale as I understand it, was the lack of demand as there had been no inner city rioting and someone concluded, heaven knows how, that petrol bombs were no longer to be a problem during disorder. If this is so, then a lack of “top end” training may lead to reluctance to get involved. Once trained petrol bombs and fire hold few fears.

5. Lack of trained officers, fully equipped and able to be mobilised may be one of the many causes of the way the riots were dealt with. Other contributing factors to delay in mobilisation are the fewer numbers of trained personnel on duty and the fact that officers can live a long way from where they work. Your committee may well benefit from asking the CHMI about Police Support Unit numbers and training for 2011, 2001, 1991, information that exists in various force annual reports. In my time I believe it was 12.5% of the service were trained and equipped for deployment as Police Support Units. I would be very surprised if this percentage has been maintained.

6. I hope none of this is seen as critical of the Metropolitan Police or any other police force. The lack of rioting has led to a loss of experience and understanding of best practice. Leadership style has become more relaxed and moving from the day to day to life threatening responsibility may have been hard for some, which is a certain case for realistic and difficult training as undertaken certainly in the past, by the Metropolitan Police.

7. To sum up it may assist your committee when making recommendations to understand:

(a)The number of trained Police Support Unit officers as against 10 and 20 years ago.

(b)The costs involved of training and equipping a Police Support Unit.

(c)The level of training and exercising including regional exercises.

September 2011

Prepared 22nd December 2011