Friday, 14 September 2012

PC's Franklin and Sawyer - specialisms

It became evident at the Hutton Inquiry that witnesses Franklin and Sawyer, although both police constables, were anything but normal "bobbies on the beat".  A little background about their specialist roles was given when they were examined by Mr Dingemans and Mr Knox respectively:

Examined by MR DINGEMANS
Q. Could you tell his Lordship your full name?
A. My name is Dean Andrew Franklin.
Q. And your occupation?
A. I am a police constable with the police support team, Thames Valley Police.
Q. Where are you based?
A. We are based at the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park.

Examined by MR KNOX
Q. Mr Sawyer, what is your full name?
A. Jonathan Martyn Sawyer.
Q. Your occupation?
A. I am a police constable with the Thames Valley Police, stationed on the police search team the same as PC Franklin.
Q. Which station?
A. That would be from the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park.
Q. What are your qualifications?
A. I am a qualified EOD searcher, which is explosive
ordnance searcher. We have to be licensed by the Home Office and we retrain on a periodic basis. We also train to search major crime scenes, murder scenes and any major event. We search events like Royal Ascot, which we call a defensive search, to make sure there are no explosive devices left. We also do offensive searches or crime scene searches, as the Dr David Kelly search.

Q. I understand you are a search team leader?
A. I am a search team leader, which means I have done a further course which enables me to actually run a search. Police Constable Franklin, being the police search adviser, will liaise with the senior investigating officer. They will decide on the parameters of the search, what they want searched. It is then turned over to me to organise the logistics of it, to plan the search, do the cordons, to set the searchers going and supervise them while they are searching.

This page from the Thames Valley Police website is useful:

The Specialist Search and Recovery Team (SSRT) is involved in far more than diving.
The SSRT is a specialist team with training and expertise in search and recovery in hazardous environments. It works over land and under water, searching for and recovering items such as firearms, drugs, property, explosives and missing persons.
The team is made up of eight officers - one sergeant and seven constables - plus one police staff dive technician. The unit is involved in around 350 operations each year.
A brief history
  • Formed in 1956.
  • The SSRT was initially called the Underwater Search Team. It was part of Berkshire Constabulary and consisted of five officers.
  • The new name ‘Specialist Search and Recovery Team’ gives a better indication of the type of work that it does.
The SSRT performs a number of roles, including:
  • Underwater search, including the search for and recovery of bodies in water, weapons and property, and vehicles.
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) searches.
  • Confined space searches in any space where the atmosphere and air quality is potentially hazardous.
  • Rope access searches at height.
  • Crime scene searching.
  • Drugs and property warrants – providing method of entry and then a search capability of the premises.
  • Boat patrols and river searches.
  • Flood rescue.
  • Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, and Nuclear (CBRN) search and recovery trained.
  • Victim recovery at major disasters. SSRT members are also trained to act as temporary mortuary attendants to help pathologists in such incidents. Five members of the SSRT are UK DVI (disaster victim identification) trained.
© Thames Valley Police. All rights reserved.

I imagine that arrangements in 2003 weren't too different than they are now (2012).  

It seems to be a very compact team bearing in mind that on average they are involved in an operation almost every day.  A wide variety of roles are listed: at the Inquiry PC Sawyer said he was a qualified EOD searcher and that he had done a course to run a search.  The actual officers physically searching would I suppose be "regular" police.

At Harrowdown Hill the fingertip search was carried out over a very confined area with officers working in touching distance of each other.  Before news of the body having been found came in PC Franklin said that he had been given PC Sawyer and six other officers; self evidently in searching for an individual the six would be spread very much further apart.  How their searches would fit in with what other police officers were doing is far from clear.

Mr Dingemans asks PC Franklin how many officers were at the briefing by Paul Woods; he's not sure but thinks between 8 and 10.  Would these officers have included the six who were selected to join the Franklin/Sawyer team?  Perhaps they included officers who were going to carry out similar roles in running searches but in different locations.  We aren't told the details.  Franklin though does go on to say: 'PC Sawyer and I were going to be the first team out on the ground.'         

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