Huge Police Operation to Keep Regatta Visitors Safe

With the thousands of people visiting Henley Royal Regatta each year, there is huge police operation to ensure that the public are kept safe.  Only 16 arrests were made at last year’s Regatta.  It is not just about officers on the ground, the marine boat unit and drone unit are key components of the police operation.

We were fortunate to meet and understand the work these units carry out during the Regatta last week.

The police marine boat is one of three patrol vessels based in Hampshire. The boat which has a 400 horsepower engine with a speed of up to 45 knots can accommodate up to 10 officers.  The marine boat unit works with the EA and safety boats to identify incidents along the Henley reach involving boats, rowing crews or spectators.  These include spectators going for a swim or falling in, unstable boats or boats being driven recklessly as well as being deployed to land incidents when they will be the fastest unit to get officers there.  This was the case last year when officers were deployed to China White nightclub after a fight broke out.

The trickiest issue for the police are boat users under the influence of alcohol.   Those boats with passengers in high spirits during the day are noted with officers saying “they will be trouble later!”

A member of the Counter Terrorism Unit joined the marine boat team to do a surveillance tour of the river.  He commented, “We put in many measures before this type of event.”

To become an officer in the police marine unit, they have to first train to become a Patrol Second Crew. Marine Patrol Officer Ben said, “I came from being a marine reservist. It’s a really good role to get into and I love the variety.  There’s lots of skills that we train for including moving transfers of people, ladder deliveries, VHF radio, radar and our Powerboat Level 2.  Those are the basic things you need to have to get on a boat.  You can then train to become a Tactical Second Crew where you use different tactics and techniques on the boat and you have to complete the RYA Yachtmasters theory course.  This is important when there is an incident and we have to investigate it; it gives us creditability for our investigation. To become a Patrol Coxain you then have to complete an Advanced Yachtmaster and Powerboat courses which allows you to do navigation at night.”

Marine Patrol Officers also continue to do police roles on the streets when needed and are trained in Level 2 Public Orders and the use of riot shields. Ben added, “We can use these tactics when we have a non-compliant person we deal with on or in the water.”  As well as events and public order incidents, the boats are used for search and rescues particularly in the winter months.

The Drone unit are stationed on the Bucks side of the river with three officers and two drones.  The drones can fly at up to 50mph, up to 500 metres in the air and can go a distance of 1km; with being able to see a clear car registration at ½ km.  The drones have spotlights and speakers on them for officers to be able to speak directly to officers or victims on the ground.  They can pin and track individuals and direct officers to suspects hiding.  The unit provides footage and/or pictures from the time of crimes for use as evidence in court.  The drones can also identify the source of a fire or hotspots through thermal imagery to assist the fire service.

Drone officer, Nick said, “We are constantly filming up to the early hours of the morning here.  We can see incidents as they happen like public order offences or people in the water.  It is live streamed back to our command control room for them to decide what or whether resources should be deployed.”

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