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This article is about the British Police Flying Squad, for the Italian State Police unit see: Reparto volanti

The Flying Squad is a branch of the Specialist Crime Directorate, within London's Metropolitan Police Service. The Squad's purpose is to investigate commercial armed robberies, along with the prevention and investigation of other serious armed crime. Possibly one of the most well known operations of the squad was their foiling of the Millennium Dome robbery. Due to the Flying Squad dealing with armed crime, many are Authorised Firearms Officers.

Contents

Formation and history

The squad was originally formed on an experimental basis by Detective Chief Inspector Wensley. In October, 1919, he summoned twelve detectives to Scotland Yard to form the squad. The group was initially named the "Mobile Patrol Experiment", and its original orders were to perform surveillance and gather intelligence on known robbers and pickpockets, using a horse-drawn carriage with covert holes cut into the canvas.[1]

In 1920, it was officially reorganised renamed to become the "Central Robbery Squad", under the authority of then Commissioner Sir Nevil Macready. Headed by Detective Inspector Walter Hambrook, the squad contained twelve detective officers.[1] The Mobile Patrol Experiment was given authorisation to carry out duties anywhere in the Metropolitan Police District, meaning that they did not have to observe Divisions, giving rise to the name of the "Flying Squad" because the unit knew no boundaries.[2]

Throughout the 1920s, the squad was standardised and expanded, and the establishment was expanded to forty officers, under the command of a Detective Superintendent. The squad was given the designation of "C1" for "Central". In the late early 1980s, the name was changed to the Central Robbery Squad, referred to by most as the Flying Squad.[1]

Some of the most dangerous work undertaken by the Flying Squad, is "Pavement Ambush", where police ambush armed robbers during the offence. During "Operation Yamoto" and "Operation Char", this approach saw two armed robbers shot dead by police.[1]

Notable investigations

In July 1948, the squad learned of a plan to steal £250,000 of bullion from a warehouse at Heathrow Airport by drugging the guards. Instead, officers replaced the guards and pretended to be drugged, with other officers stationed around the warehouse. When the thieves entered, a violent struggle ensued between the two parties and many officers were left with injuries. The offenders received an average sentence of 10 years imprisonment.[3]

In the 1960s, the squad undertook the role of capturing, and gathering evidence on the Kray twins, with many officers giving evidence in court.[3]

In the 1990s, an armed robbery occurred at a Barclays Bank, in Blackfen, Kent. This made the headlines as being the first time police were fired upon by a machine gun in mainland Britain, leaving officer Michael Stubbs severely wounded. The two robbers were later arrested, and were found to be in possession of firearms and money. Both were sentenced at the Old Bailey.[3]

In November 2000, five men set out to rob the Millennium Dome of the flawless 777 carats (155 g) Millennium Star, valued at over 200 million pounds.[3] Originally, police were unsure of the exact location of the robbery, but after months of surveillance, they realised that the target was the Millennium Dome. On the 7th of November, the robbers armed with smoke bombs, ammonia, and a nail gun, crashed into the Dome with a stolen JCB Excavator and smashed through to the vault. The robbers planned to escape on the River Thames by using a speedboat. The police operation to catch the robbers was codenamed "Operation Magician", and involved 200 officers, including forty Specialist Firearms Officers from SO19. Some of the officers were positioned behind a dummy wall, and others were dressed as cleaners with their firearms hidden in black bin bags, or rubbish bins, along with officers in Dome employee uniforms. A further sixty armed Flying Squad officers were stationed around the Thames, and 20 on the river itself, to hamper any escape attempts. Five men were caught and sentenced on various different robbery charges. The officer in command of the operation was Detective Superintendent Jon Shatford.[3]

On 13 September 2007, the Flying Squad was involved in an incident outside a bank in the village of Chandler's Ford, near Southampton. Two suspected armed robbers were shot dead by members of CO19, in support of a Flying Squad operation, who had been lying in wait after receiving a tip off that an armed robbery was imminent. The thieves were attempting armed robbery on a Securicor security van outside the HSBC branch when they were killed by the CO19 SFOs.[4]

In fiction

The Flying Squad's work was dramatised in the 1970s British television series The Sweeney, starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. This was the era in which the squad's close ties with the criminal fraternity, which had always been a necessary part of its strategy, were being exposed to public criticism. A number of scandals involving bribery and corruption were revealed, and on 7 July 1977, the squad's commander, Detective Chief Superintendent Kenneth Drury, was convicted on five counts of corruption and jailed for eight years. Twelve other officers were also convicted and many more resigned. These and other scandals led to a massive internal investigation by the Dorset Constabulary into the Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London Police, codenamed Operation Countryman.[5]

See also

References

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