Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Gold, silver and bronze in the search phase

Writing about gold, silver and bronze might seem to be particularly apt just after the conclusion of the Olympic Games 2012 but coincidentally the words are used in relation to Command and Control at a major incident.

In my first post on "Operation Mason" I provided this link 

Section 7 is titled "Command and Control" and the first subheading is 7.1 Strategic (Gold), Tactical (Silver), Operational (Bronze)This detailed information is on pages 22 and 23 of the pdfAlthough much too long to reproduce in its entirety here I will though just note one point that it makes:  It should be understood that the titles do not convey seniority of service or rank, but depict the function carried out by that particular person.

In this post I focussed on the helicopter flights but the FoI request also asked questions about the command structure.  Questions 6,7 and 8 were:

6. Please inform me when the Gold/Silver/Bronze command structure was established (date and time) 
7. Please confirm ACC Page was Silver Commander based at Abingdon. Please inform me who Gold Commander was and where he / she was based 
8. Please inform me if there was a government command centre (Platinum / Cobra) established.

The responses were as follows:

6) There is no formal time at which this structure was established. Thames Valley Police operating methods directs that the Control Room Inspector will manage the operation until such time as a ground supervisor is in place. During this time the family were seen and initial local searching began. The deployment of dog units and air support is standard procedure for a missing person incident such as this.
The matter was escalated to Chief Superintendent (Silver) level at 0305hrs on 18/07/2003 who in turn informed ACC Page (Gold). Both senior officers were, at this time making their way in to Abingdon Police Station to command the operation. The incident was declared a Critical Incident at 0344hrs by which time it is fair to say the GSB structure was in place.
7) ACC Page was the Gold Commander operating from Abingdon Police Station.
8) No Information held

I'm aware that doubt has been expressed about Page being Gold but in the search phase there is no evidence given of the involvement of the Chief Constable (Peter Neyroud) who some might feel would have been Gold.  My own opinion is that once the body had been discovered the Gold/Silver/Bronze personnel would be different from those in the search phase.  The FoI reply suggests that Bronze was appointed by about 3.44.
There is also this FoI request regarding Bronze:

This request, reference RFI2011000557, was received on Thursday 21 July 2011, 9:36am.
1. Please tell me who was appointed as Bronze Commander in the search for Dr Kelly on or about 17th July 2003. Who appointed them, and what did they do from the time of their appointment until the finding of Dr Kelly’s body? 2. Who decided that two volunteer searchers should be called out to help in looking for Dr Kelly, and when was the decision taken? Why were only two such volunteers called out?
1) We confirm we hold the information you have requested.  We consider that the information is exempt by virtue of the following exemption under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Section 40(2) – Personal Data.  We believe that disclosure of the name would breach the first data protection principle.
The Bronze Commander was appointed by Silver Control and undertook duties commensurate with their role as a trained Police Search Advisor (POLSA).
2) At about 5.00am the POLSA called the duty coordinator for Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue (SEBEV SAR) to assist in the search. The coordinator attended Abingdon Police Station to assess the task and then called out members of his team.  SEBEV are a registered charity who work closely with the police but their team consists entirely of volunteers and are not subject to Police control.

This is TVP being silly: they aren't prepared to name Bronze but are prepared to say that the person was a trained Police Search Advisor.  It certainly makes sense though for Bronze (Operational) to be a POLSA. 
My best guess is that the POLSA who was appointed Bronze was Sergeant Paul Woods ... more about him anon. 

1 comment:

  1. Officially at least it's clear that ACC Page was "Gold" in the search phase. But was he really calling the shots at that time? I've been reminded about what Mrs Kelly said at the Inquiry after the family had called the police:

    Q. The police are called. Do they turn up?
    A. They turn up. Three of them come with a missing persons form to fill in. I explained the situation that David had been in and it seemed immediately to go up to Chief Constable level.

    Her refertence to going up to Chief Constable level is very strange bearing in mind that Page himaelf didn't get a call until 3.09. On the face of it Mr Neyroud was personally involved from a very early time.