Well, despite all the odds and negative expectation, the athletes are here and everything in the lycra-clad world of London 2012 appears to be running swimmingly.
We have secured our first gold medals in the ladies pairs (rowing), but elsewhere in the country we are struggling on without a paddle to help us up that rock-strewn creek that is Policing. This is due, in part, to the fact that it has been deemed necessary to bolster the officer numbers in the capital to cope with the additional demands that were expected during the olympic period. Thankfully, my part of the country is one of those that is less effected by this, but just across the border in neighbouring counties the situation is very different. Officers with specialist skills such as public order, firearms and searching have been removed from their usual department, including response teams, been tucked away in budget accommodation (or cargo containers if you are one of the unlucky ones) to provide a reassuring presence to Olympians and spectators or to be on stand-by in case the worst happens.
The result of this is for the county in question, according to information shown in a document I had sight of last week, is a reduction in front-line officer availability of approximately 10%. To reduce the impact of this huge level of abstraction, those at the top of the tree implemented, some months ago, a series of restrictions regarding time off. This has meant that very few officers (including many with young children who are now on school holidays) are able to take time off when they most need it – especially those specialist officers I mentioned above.
Those that read between the lines early on have booked holiday immediately after the restrictions are lifted and the leave calendars are now choked up through to the new year. Unfortunately the triple whammy of reduced officer numbers, reduced leave during the summer and huge demands for leave during the following few months means that some actually will find it impossible to take their allocated hours of leave before the clock resets at the end of their service year – no compensation is offered should leave be lost in these circumstances.
Unfortunately, according to the national press, the anticipated huge influx of tourist trade has simply not materialised – numbers visiting and using services in London are currently down by as much as 20%. It seems that the panic resourcing may have been a little unnecessary and that some of the knock on effects could, in hindsight, have avoided.
In other news:
I spoke to a member of the security services last week who had been visiting a client at a location near to one of the main Olympic venues. His meeting was not Games related. He had inadvertently found himself on the wrong side of the venue and approached a G4S guard for directions around the restricted area. Looking left and right to check they were unobserved, the guard then directed him (with no idea who he was) through his cordon and right through the centre of the venue itself.
Need I say more…