London’s police chiefs and medics are bracing for a security nightmare at the Queen’s funeral Monday as they balance the need to protect the world’s top leaders and dignitaries with the public’s desire to mourn their beloved monarch.
Some have compared the event to the scale of the London Olympics, but in truth the state funeral – the first in Britain since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965 – risks overshadowing the sporting extravaganza of 2012.
Dubbed ‘Operation London Bridge’, the arrangements for Britain’s longest-serving monarch were carefully scrutinized for years by the many agencies involved, with the Queen herself signing off on every detail before her death.
The city has already seen unprecedented crowds watch the official lie, which will run until 6:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. ET) Monday, just hours before the funeral procession begins at Westminster Abbey. The absolute numbers caused the queue to be temporarily paused on Friday.
In an interview with Sky News earlier this week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said of the scale: “If you think of the London Marathon, the carnival, previous royal weddings, the Olympics, it’s all in one.”
The three police forces that operate in the UK capital – the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police and the British Transport Police – launched their well-rehearsed plans across London as soon as news broke of Elizabeth II’s death. September 8.
The funeral will be the “largest single police event” London’s Metropolitan Police have undertaken, its Deputy Deputy Commissioner Stuart Cundy told reporters on Friday.
“As a single event, it’s bigger than the 2012 Olympics. It’s bigger than the Platinum Jubilee weekend. And the range of officers, police personnel and all those who support the operation is truly immense,” he said.
It is also set to ‘be the biggest global protection operation ever undertaken by the Met Police’ as ‘hundreds of world leaders and personalities’ descend on London, he said.
Asked specifically how high-profile guests would be transported to Westminster Abbey in London for the funeral service, Cundy declined to give specific details, saying it would not be conducive to a “safe and secure event. secured and a police operation”.
Meanwhile, the mammoth logistical operation involved a myriad of other aspects, such as doctors, toilets, street cleaning and road closures.
The size of the crowds who came to pay their last respects is “impossible” to predict, according to Andy Byford, Commissioner for Transport in London (TfL).
Byford described the funeral as “the biggest event” the transport network has ever faced in an interview with UK news agency PA Media.
Comparing it to the Olympics, he said: “It’s more difficult. This is over a long period of time and although there are estimates it is impossible to say with certainty how many people will show up for the various elements, so we have assumed the highest possible number and are aligning our service accordingly.
Invitations have been sent to world leaders, politicians, public figures and the European royal family, as well as to more than 500 international dignitaries. The security considerations are mind-boggling.
The UK government is taking the lead on logistics but declined to comment on specific “operational security arrangements”.
US President Joe Biden was among the first to confirm his attendance at the event, which will bring together up to 2,000 people. Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will also visit London, as will many other royals and world leaders.
Hundreds of police from other forces support the Met, but the presence of so many prominent figures will increase the pressure.
“Everything will have been negotiated,” Morgan said, explaining that some concessions will have been made. There just aren’t enough police and protection officers to give an escorted convoy to everyone who would normally get it on a self-guided tour. Therefore, people are brought together on a logistical basis,” Morgan continued.
Simon Morgan is a former royal protection officer who was in charge of overseeing members of the royal family, including the queen and the new king between 2007 and 2013.
“It will be seamless,” Morgan, who now runs private security firm Trojan Consultancy, told CNN. “The policing plan and the security behind it is a two-pronged operation: security and public safety are both intrinsic.”
Morgan said the events surrounding the state funeral had been in the works for decades. “London Bridge was born in the 1960s. It was reviewed at least three times a year.
“Elements are discussed and indeed some elements have already been used in isolation,” he said, citing the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002, royal weddings and the Platinum Jubilee as examples.
Regular reviews were essential to combat the changing nature of security threats – from Irish nationalism in the 1970s and 1980s to Islamic extremism more recently.
White House aides declined to provide specific security details for President Biden’s visit, but say they are working with their British counterparts to ensure presidential security requirements are met. The FBI will monitor potential threat feeds and share any information with Britain’s MI5 security service.
When reports emerged last week that world leaders would be required to take a bus to the funeral, US officials were skeptical and dismissed the suggestion that Biden would travel to Westminster Abbey in a coach.
In 2018, when other world leaders traveled together on a bus to a World War I memorial in Paris, then-US President Donald Trump traveled separately in his own vehicle. The White House explained at the time that the separate trip was “due to security protocols.”
“Everything will have been negotiated,” Morgan said, explaining that some concessions will have been made. There just aren’t enough police and protection officers to give an escorted convoy to everyone who would normally get it on a self-guided tour. Therefore, people are brought together on a logistical basis,” Morgan said.
“There is no compromise on security and many visiting dignitaries will be keenly aware of the optics of requiring their own protection teams.”
Police must also consider the “fixed threat”, he said. “He is someone who is fixated on a member of the royal family. Many of these people are the subject of mental health orders and have subsequently come to the attention of medical professionals and sometimes law enforcement.
“One cause” activists also pose a risk, Morgan said. The force has previously faced harsh criticism over its treatment of Republican protesters.
“Each of these causes wants to use global media attention to highlight what’s important to them,” he added.
Symon Hill, from Oxford, told CNN how he was aggressively arrested after shouting “not my king” at a ceremony which proclaimed the accession of Charles III. He said he was left ‘stunned’ after ‘the police came in, grabbed me, handcuffed me and put me in the back of a police van’.
He added: “Certainly arbitrary arrest is not something we should have in a democratic society.”
According to Morgan, the aim of the police is not to ban peaceful demonstrations but to ensure public order, as demonstrations can sometimes provoke a confrontation when emotions are running high.
“The police are really in a ‘damn if you do, damn if you don’t,’ situation,” he said.
While the police are spearheading the operation, many other people are closely involved, including army, transport and utility bosses.
Health concerns are paramount. In addition to the official emergency services, approximately 2,000 volunteers and St. John Ambulance staff provided round-the-clock support in London and Windsor for the state, as well as for his funeral.
“In our planning for this sad occasion, we estimated that we would need about 1,000 volunteers, but more than twice said they could make themselves available,” said St. John’s Commissioner of Operations, Mike Gibbons, in a statement. statement.
Patrick Goulbourne, assistant commissioner, resilience and operational control, at the London Fire Brigade, told CNN his team had worked “for many years with partners”.
They performed fire safety inspections on more than 40 major central transportation hubs and also performed approximately 160 fire safety inspections per day in hotels, restaurants, stores and more. Additionally, 10 fire engines and around 50 firefighters helped people line up to view the Queen’s coffin around the clock.