After the July 7 terrorist bomb attacks devastated London, police from around Britain were drafted in to work on the capital’s Tube network. Chief Reporter Michelle Fiddler met three Merseyside officers currently based in London helping to counter the terrorist threat …
IT is almost six months since suicide bomb attacks in London claimed the lives of 52 people and injured hundreds of others.
But despite the devastation of the July 7 bombings, and the thwarted suicide attacks just weeks later, PC Richie Conkling had no hesitation in volunteering to work on the London Underground.
He is one of 65 extra police officers from forces across the country, including Merseyside, Wales, Scotland, Northumbria, Yorkshire and Devon and Cornwall, drafted in to work as British Transport police officers as part of Operation Derwent.
Their aim is to maintain high visibility policing on the Underground, reassure the public and staff, and disrupt any terrorist activity.
But for PC Conkling, 34, who lives in Southport, and is a member of Merseyside police’s elite Matrix team, the effect of the bombings was more personal.
He said: «I have family living in London so the bombings meant as much to me as they would have done if it had been in Liverpool.
«My brother and sister-in-law live in Kensington and normally my brother would have been travelling through Baker Street station, close to the bombings, on the day of the explosions.
«Fortunately he had a meeting somewhere else on that day.»
Inspector Kate Shaw, who heads up Operation Derwent, said there was funding for an extra 100 officers, but as the training process took up to two years, the assistance from other forces was invaluable.
She said: «These officers have been seconded to assist us for a three or six month period while that process is taking place and it has been very successful.
«The officers have done 8,000 stop searches with no real complaints. The only person who did complain was a guy who thought he fitted the profile of a suicide bomber and complained that he WASN’T searched.»
The 65 officers patrolling the Underground network have made 120 arrests for a variety of offences including possession of drugs and weapons, assaults, robbery and being drunk and disorderly.
PC Conkling added: «I think what we have been doing in London does make a difference. The people thank you for being there.
«They tell us we have really made a visible difference and the vast majority of people understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.»
PC Lee Benham, 36, who lives in Liverpool and works for the Matrix firearms unit, says he has been surprised by the public’s response.
He said: «Even now six months after the bombings you still see women crying on the platforms because they are scared to get on the Underground but know they have to.
«I volunteered to come to London because I have previously worked in the capital and I thought I could be of some benefit to the British Transport police.
«I am still suprised at people’s reactions. Even after all this time we still get thanked by anonymous members of the public because they feel reassured that we are there.»
DC Ram Adhyaru, 38, who is from Liverpool, but works in Sefton, said: «This was my chance to do my bit in the war against terror and I thought it was a unique opportunity to broaden my skills as a police officer.
«The public’s response has been very favourable and the fact that the Merseyside officers have their own police badges on their uniform makes it a real ice breaker with members of the public.»
ON PATROL: PC Lee Benham of Merseyside police keeps a high profile on the London Underground’ VOLUNTEER: PC Conkling, who has family in London’ STOP: PC Benham searches commuter bags’ QUESTIONS: DC Ram Adhyarn carries out his duties on the Underground: «I wanted to do my bit in the war against terror»‘ MAKING NOTE: PC Benham carries out a stop-search on the London Underground with the help of explosives search dog Marley