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Britain’s capital city, policed by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has a unique highway, which bisects the city and runs into its heart, the River Thames. In addition to this major world river London has many hundreds of miles of the other inland waterways; small rivers, canals, lakes, docks and reservoirs. All these waterways attract people and consequently criminal activity. It is the role of the Marine Police unit (MPU) to provide an effective response to all marine based police incidents in the capital, in support of the MPS objective of making London safer for everyone who lives in, works in or visits the capital.
The Unit Commander is a Chief Inspector who is also the Operations Manager. He is the MPS diving contractor and holds a similar role for the MPU's line access activities. He is responsible for the strategic leadership within the MPU.
The unit currently is also allocated four inspectors who are responsible for supervising its day to day working. They cover 24 hour response, the Underwater and Confined Space Search Team, operations and counter terrorism response as well as training and support.
The 24 hour response teams are responsible for all emergency response policing and critical incident management in a marine environment across the MPD. There are four core teams of officers operating from the base at Wapping.
The MPU run an Underwater and Confined Space Search Team (UCSST) and an Intelligence Team. The UCSST undertake all crime scene and counter terrorist searching underwater or in any confined space within the MPS area or beyond if linked to an MPS investigation. They are sometimes used for body recovery. The Intelligence Team are responsible for gathering and disseminating all intelligence and information, which relates to marine crime and or criminals that use the water for any purpose. The Intelligence Team is the only one of its kind in the country and their work drives all other MPU activity. The team liases with other police forces throughout the UK as well as Interpol, and various government agencies.
The MPU operates a Tactical Response Team that carries out both plain clothes and uniform duties to target crime “hotspots”. Much of their work takes place away from the central river area of London and often focuses on the canal system and other inland waterways of London which are often seen by criminals as areas that are not policed. Fed by information from the Intelligence Team, they have been instrumental in closing down the activities of a number of these criminals who where engaged in drugs supply, burglary and street robbery. The Operations Planning Team are responsible for planning all operations, large and small which are undertaken by officers from the MPU, as well as those which involve officers from elsewhere within the MPS and other agencies. The nature of their work is such that they work closely with the Intelligence Team.
In conjunction with the rest of the MPS, the MPU operates a Safer Neighbourhood initiative whereby river users can contact the police if they are concerned by any criminal or antisocial behaviour they have witnessed. This initiative is known as Project Kraken http://www.met.police.uk/marine/kraken.htm
Today officers from the MPU police 36 miles of London’s river and hundreds of miles of other inland waterways across the capital in all kinds of weather and conditions. Officers of the MPU are carrying on a proud policing tradition over two centuries old that is to ensure the safety of lives and property, to investigate crime and enforce the law on all of London’s waterways.