The crown protectors

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday, April 29, 2011

WITH two billion people around the world watching, every move will be scrutinised in minute detail.
But two women feeling the pressure more than the bride will be police chief Lynne Owens, only the second ever female assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, and her colleague Christine Jones.
Softly-spoken police leader Owens will be in charge of 5,000 officers, the Territorial Support Group (TSG), firearms teams and undercover units, on the big day.
Police Commander Christine Jones will oversee the police operation alongside Owens.
The pair will have to deal with a wave of terrorist threats and protests which have been planned for the wedding spectacular on Friday.
But as an officer who has brought a ‘woman’s touch’ to hardline policing, it appears to be little coincidence that Owens and Jones have been chosen to oversee the Royal Wedding.
‘She is a woman who has been brought in from outside to the Met and put in charge of the TSG, who to be blunt have a reputation for being one of the most macho units in the police force. It’s the stuff of a TV drama,’ a justice source told the Guardian.
The two women will be in control of the Met’s vast resources for the enormous event, which could hundreds of thousands of well-wishers descend on the capital.
They will also need to ensure that 80 foreign dignitaries, the royal family, and hundreds of wedding guests, remain safe.
The policing unit will have to keep at bay Muslim extremists and far-right groups who have tried to organise protests.
There have also been threats against the Queen from the Real IRA and MI5 chiefs have warned that the group could launch attacks elsewhere in the UK.
The most important job of the day for Owens will be to ensure that Kate Middleton and Prince William get married without any interruptions.
For that job, it seems a woman would almost certainly be most suited, with men showing less interest  in the Royal Wedding in recent polls.
‘Hundreds of thousands of people will want to come to enjoy this unique event and enjoy the sense of occasion,’ Ms Owens said today.
‘The Metropolitan Police role is to ensure they can and will do that safely.’
Owens, a married mum of a teenage daughter, has won support from liberty groups for the way she has dealt with protests.

One of her tactics includes handing leaflets to local residents to improve communications and explain why the police are present at protests.
‘She is a real breath of fresh air,’ said Jenny Jones, Green party member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. ‘She has very sensible ideas which frankly should have been brought in years ago in the Met. I am sure that some of these ideas might have met some resistance. She faces a big test during the royal wedding and there will be lots of people watching her on the day.’
Owens became hooked on policing from an early age after being born to a chief constable.
She trained as a detective with Kent police and investigated 10 major murders which were all solved. The killers all received lengthy sentences.
Owens later trained as a firearms officer then became the country’s youngest deputy chief constable before joining the Met in 2009.
Her ‘straight forward’ outlook is said to have won her the job as assistant commissioner of central operations. She is only the second female assistant commissioner in the history of the Met. Cressida Dick was appointed in June 2009 as head of specialist crime.
Speaking today about extremist threats to the wedding, Owens said that the public would have to be ‘the eyes and ears’ of the police.
She said that Scotland Yard had been in negotiation with extremist campaign groups Muslims Against Crusades and the English Defence League over proposed protests.
Six people wanted in connection with violence during the TUC marches have also been arrested in recent days amid fears they could be planning similar disruption.
Police are expected to make several more arrests in coming days as part of covert investigations.
Officers have powers to ban any major protests along the main route that Prince William and his bride-to-be, Kate Middleton, will take.
But they are unable to rule out static protests taking place at other nearby locations in central London.
Ms Owens said that all the groups applying to protest have been told by officers that they are likely to be refused permission unless they agree to postpone demonstrations until later in the day.
‘In terms of all the groups that currently have entries made on their websites and other things, we are currently engaged in a significant covert and overt operation.
‘If we believe any criminal offences have been committed, we will take action.’
She said ‘preliminary inquiries’ were taking place into the third group warning of disruption.
As it stands, police are not planning to use anti-terror-related stop and search powers.
But they have directly appealed to the public to help the 5,000 officers policing the wedding.
‘If you see anything or anyone in the crowd that is acting suspiciously, please bring it to the earliest attention of our officers… they are there to help you.
‘We are very clear that we want this to be a safe, secure and happy event and we intend to act robustly, quickly and firmly if anyone engages in any criminal activity.’
Daily Mail UK