Tuesday, 25 January 2011

(Sung to the tune of "The Teddy Bears' Picnic") If you go driving about today, you'd better be road legal!

Found at the eastern end of the route today, an ANPR road check point run by the boys in blue, just after the bus stand. This is a fairly common sight to see these days, as the Met crack down with a blitz on unlicenced drivers, vehicles with no road tax, no insurance, and/or no MoT.

What was new to me this time, was the presence of this vehicle, the Mobile Processing Unit...

Apparently used a lot in Central London on such operations as anti-minicab-touting, revenue blitzes on the buses, and such like, this was the first time I'd seen the unit, so I blatantly asked the officer in charge of the blitz, a Chief Inspector, if I could have a quick look inside the MPU - he was quite happy to oblige...

Operated by Safer Transport Command (Formerly called TOCU, or "Transport Operations Command Unit", a joint Met and TfL command to provide coherent and timely policing on buses, bus routes, taxis and minicabs), The MPU is mounted on the back of a 12-ton rigid LGV, with the cargo unit on its' back converted to be much like a local Police Office, but with Suspect Processing Facilities instead of the usual office facilities.

Note that the MPU is most emphatically not a mobile custody suite (that's 'cell block' in old-style terminology); the idea, I was told by the Sergeant in charge of the unit, was to relieve the strain on local Police Stations by performing, with what he called low-level offenders, what could take between six and twelve hours in a busy Police Station, in a maximum of between two to four hours, in the MPU.

However, violent offenders, and those who started to create problems, he told me, would be dealt with in a more conventional manner, at any local Police Station, instead: The MPU doesn't have a cell for the unruly, after all, just a fairly cramped interview space, to gather statements and the like.

In terms of processing facilities, the MPU consists of a booking-in and reception desk (to the right of the photo, nearest the camera), and equipment to perform "livescan" fingerprinting, digital suspect photographing, DNA swabbing, interviewing, and low-level prisoner supervision (all in separate small rooms (more like broom cupboards in terms of space, but it's on the back of a truck, remember!) along the right of the corridor).

The entire thing is covered by CCTV cameras, both inside and out, of course (what Police facility isn't, these days?), and from what I could glean, the MPU generally does fairly well in its intended function; while I was at the stand, they didn't have any 'customers', but from what I saw, I wouldn't have thought that their 'customers' would want to repeat their appearances!

Friday, 7 January 2011

UK Threat Level raised in Airports...

One of the things I tend to pay attention to a bit more than most of you out there, is in our Security threat indicator level. This is a habit from when I was both in the T.A., and as a Civil Servant. In those days, it related mostly to the threat from Irish Extremist terrorism, and I was no more than a hundred yards from the mortars launch point that the IRA deployed in Whitehall in 1991. Ensconced in our offices, the first we heard was a series of loud bangs, and then things went a tad crazy, to say the very least.

Those were the days when you were fairly sure that the terrorists had at least got a target list together that were aimed at government and military targets, not ordinary people.

These days, extremists don't tend to be so selective. They target everyone. As a result, the old Military Bikini State was updated by HMG (Her Majesties Government), and now forms what is called the UK Threat Level System, as follows:

Critical - An attack is expected imminently
Severe - An attack is highly likely
Substantial - An attack is a strong possibility
Moderate - An attack is possible but not likely
Low - An attack is unlikely

The general threat level in Great Britain is currently at Severe, in relation to international terrorism. For domestic terrorism (read "Irish Extremist Sectarianism"), it's been at Substantial for a while, primarily because of a few attacks in Northern Ireland from so-called 'dissident' groups that opposed the cessation of terrorist acts following the Good Friday Agreement.

So, what does this mean? Not a whole heck of a lot, actually. The papers (mostly the more comic-like tabloids) will raise most likely seven kinds of scaremongering about it, but the upshot will probably be an increased number of Police wandering around the Airports, not all of them armed. It's a fallacy to think that all Police at Airports are armed - they're not. A vast number are, yes, but not all of them.

There may also be an increase in the number of coppers seen at Rail terminals, ports, and so on; aside from that, not a lot will happen visibly. Behind the scenes, the security and intelligence services are probably running around chasing ghosts and shadows, trying to put the pieces together to form a coherent idea of just what the bad folks with evil intent are going to do next - and we've probably a better chance of discerning all that from reading tea leaves, to be honest.

And what does this mean for you and I, your average British John Subject? Naff all, really. Yes, by all means, "Keep 'em peeled!" as Shaw Taylor would say, and report anything you think is a tad wrong to the Police; they'd rather be looking at something that's totally innocent, than picking up the pieces of people strewn over the landscape, where someone failed to call dodgy going on in time.

Above all, don't panic, don't get paranoid, and don't let the buggers win. Do what you normally do, and don't let the extremists win - anything you do over and above a normal level of precaution, such as being a little more alert, is a win for them: So don't let them win!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, Happy New year, and I hope your hangover is now a thing of the recent past ;) Having discussed it at length with the other half, here's a list of those movies I'll be wanting to see this year, and their tentative release dates (according to IMDB, that is)...

7 January 2011
The King's Speech Looks like being a fun film, and with the actors listed (Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter), it should be a very well done movie, too!
18 February 2011
Paul The lads from 'Hot Fuzz!' and 'Shaun of the Dead' (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) are back, this time, on holiday (different characters, but never mess up a good comedy team!) - and this time, there's ALIENS!
4 March 2011
The Adjustment Bureau I've read the short story by Philip K. Dick, and that was powerful... wonder if this version will live up to the short story?
RESCHEDULED FOR 2012, and now brought forward to September 2011 again. You'd think they could mke their minds up!
Apollo 18 Interesting poster and implied plot line...! Just a shame that they've reset the release date TWICE now, to 6th January, 2012. While nothing's been said publicly, I tend to think they've probably got either studio problems or post-production issues to deal with. Here's the wiki on it, anyhow... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_18_(film)
29 July 2011
Captain America: The First Avenger To be watched on the strength of reading the comics as a nipper!
12 August 2011
Cowboys & Aliens Ooo... Daniel Craig kicking Alien butt... should be vastly entertaining!
16 September 2011
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy While I don't think this will surpass Sir Alec Guinness' miniseries excellence, with Gary Oldman in the driving seat, it should be interesting, at the very least!
7 October 2011
Johnny English Reborn AHA! Ole' Rubber Lips makes a return! I thoroughly enjoyed the first movie - wonder if the second will be as good?
1 December 2011
Dredd Well, after the colossal erm... mess up... they made of the first movie (Stallone as Old Stone Face himself), they can't really do much else to harm the story, but I'll watch it - I'm a Dredd fan ;-) UPDATE: It's been put back a bloody YEAR, *sulk* :-(
16 December 2011
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows If this is anything like the first one with Robert Downey Junior and co, it should be a vastly entertaining romp through Victorian England!
So, all in all, there's a fair few movies I want to see over the next year... should be interesting watching, if nothing else! Have a fun, enjoyable, and profitable New year, everyone :-D