‘Signing’ on to help calm riot-hit capital

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

WELSH language signage on the side of their vans helped to defuse potential trouble when a group of police officers from North Wales patrolled the riot-torn streets of London.

That is the verdict of Wrexham town centre commander, Inspector Alex Goss, who led the team on its five-day deployment in support of the over-stretched Metroplitan Police, which ended last week.

He said: “Seeing our vehicles with the word Heddlu – the Welsh for police – on the side was a real talking point.

“A big part of our role down there was post-disorder reassurance and basic community policing and this certainly helped us get into conversations with the people.”

The North Wales officers, who came from all parts of the region with about a third from Wrexham, were all specially trained in handling public disorder and its aftermath.

They joined a huge number of officers drafted in from all parts of the UK.
Although the North Wales group patrolled in normal uniform, their riot gear was always close to hand.

However, Insp Goss said that luckily it was not needed. But that does not mean they had a quiet time.

He added: “Although we spent a lot of time doing reassurance work in communities like Brixton, Streatham and Peckham, we also got involved in making quite a lot of arrests for things such as looting, handling stolen goods and burglary.”

Insp Goss firmly believes the North Wales force’s strong emphasis on community policing helped them with their special mission in the capital.

He said: “In my personal view, we are well in advance of a lot of forces, and certainly the Met, in terms of community policing.

“Because of this the engagement we were able to make with the communities was fantastic.

“Down there a lot of reassurance was needed after the riots which tore whole communities apart and there is still a lot of work to be done.

“We were working very long days – 12 hours or more in a shift – but all the North Wales people who were there agree that it was a fantastic experience.

“It was also probably a one-off experience and we’ll probably never be involved in anything like this again.”

See full story in the Leader

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