Specialist PSNI officers are on the frontline of the police response to the terror attacks in London and Manchester.
As well as joining their English force counterparts on high-risk arrest operations in the Manchester area, PSNI officers have also provided a ‘casualty bureau’ service – involving a Northern Ireland-based team handling calls from concerned citizens in the wake of the weekend murders in London.
Seven people died when Islamic extremists launched a killing spree in the London Bridge area on Saturday night, just two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a music concert in Manchester.
Chief Inspector Natalie Wilson from the PSNI’s casualty bureau said her officers were operational within 15 minutes of receiving a request for assistance after the London Bridge atrocity.
“We are one of a number of casualty bureaux across the UK and we work together as a network,” she said.
“The focus is very much on providing ‘mutual aid’ to other police forces and each casualty bureau is ‘switched on’ as and when a greater level of assistance is requested.”
C/I Wilson added: “Every incident or emergency situation is different, but the calls we take are from those people who have usually exhausted all avenues in finding their loved ones. On a very human level, what we do is about reducing the anguish of those people desperate to locate their friends or relatives.”
Following the Manchester attack on May 22, four hostage and crisis negotiators from the PSNI travelled to the city where they joined the Greater Manchester Police on a number of arrest operations over a three-day period.
PSNI Detective Inspector Connie Hampton – a full-time counter terrorism negotiator – took on the role of ‘command negotiator advisor’ working alongside the assistant chief constable and firearms commanders leading the operation.
“We received a call asking for regional assistance and I flew over that Friday along with an operational team of three PSNI negotiators. My role was to advise the counter terrorism commander on negotiation options to assist their arrest operations,” she said.
DI Hampton said she felt “very proud” to represent the PSNI in supporting colleagues in London and Manchester, and described the experience as one she will never forget: “Although we have been trained to deal with all eventualities, we are used to dealing with terrorist and paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland so this was the first time we had put our international counter terrorism training into practice.”