Tomorrow I’ll be the tactical firearms commander (TFC) for an armed policing operation in Bedford, carrying out warrants at two addresses.
It’s my first ever operation as a TFC, having successfully completed my classroom training a couple of weeks ago.
A TFC is the commander for devising a suitable tactical plan for an operation involving firearms officers.
I have commanded many public order operations in the past, but this feels very, very different.
In the morning I will be deploying armed police officers onto the streets.
10pm. I read through the plan one last time. I’ve read it countless times, but one more time won’t hurt.
The planning process is vital when it comes to operations like this.
In the days leading up to the job, I thought several times about how I felt about the decisions I was making.
Would they stand up to public scrutiny, and most importantly, were they the best way of keeping everyone safe?
I drafted my plans, considered the alternatives, and ran through in my head what it would actually look like on the ground.
I considered the threat and risk to all of those involved and ensured that I not only had a legal footing for the action I was taking, but that it was the most reasonable thing to do. I didn’t do this because the Human Rights Act says I should, but because I was in charge and I was responsible.
I was responsible to the public I choose to serve.
It’s people’s lives in my hands and I want to be absolutely sure that my plan will work and keep those people that look to me for leadership and direction safe. I want to keep the public safe and I also want to keep the subjects of my operation safe.
Getting the go ahead on the plan from the strategic firearms co-ordinator was a big moment as it suddenly dawned on me that I would be responsible for commanding my first firearms operation.
It’s 3am. Time to leave. I’ve allowed two hours to get to work, what is normally a half hour journey. Just in case. I meet my command team. No last minute changes to the intelligence and the plan is still sound.
5am. Briefing time. Officers are briefed on the intelligence we have on both of the properties and the people inside them. I remind the officers of their responsibilities and we are off to the car park to form up.
The moment you see 25 armed officers entering their vehicles, supported by the same number of unarmed officers, you suddenly realise that you are in charge of something very different.
We drive into Bedford and the convoy splits in two, one team for each address.
5.45am. “Strike, strike, strike.”
It’s my responsibility to say those magic words, and with them, the two teams spring into action.
Within seconds the containments are in place and the operational firearms commanders (OFCs) are delivering to the letter what I had pictured in my head.
Just a few moments later, people are being led out of the addresses in handcuffs and all of the subjects are safely secured.
Nobody has been injured, nobody has fired a weapon, and I can hand over the scene to the investigation officers.
In total eight people have been arrested.
I remove the firearms authority and return to headquarters for a debrief. I have spent hours planning my first job and within a matter of minutes it is safely concluded.
In order to plan an operation of this scale, a deployment of nearly 50 officers, I needed the full support of a great team.
My team for this operation included staff from CID who were tasked with an investigation plan, staff from intelligence who were tasked with a never ending wish list of further information I would like, staff from our planning office who were tasked with finding me the staff I needed, my tactical advisor whose knowledge and support was vital, and an accredited TFC who would shadow me all the way and ensured I was staying on track.
I was asked after the operation why I choose to be a firearms commander, a role I volunteer for, a role I will be doing in addition to my day job, and I role I have already grown to love.
My answer to that question: “Why wouldn’t I?”
Chief Inspector Nick Lyall has been an officer for 14 years. He currently works in the Force Control Room.
To read about what it’s like to be a firearms officer, read our blog post ‘Finger on the trigger’