Servator before the Games

by Mark Rowe

Professional Security was invited to Glasgow for the day in the final run-up to the Commonwealth Games, to see the security beforehand including work under Project Servator.

The banks of the regenerated River Clyde in Glasgow city centre were beautiful at 7am on Wednesday, July 11. The sun shone off the BBC Scotland and STV buildings on one side and on the other the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) and the SSE Hydo that opened last year. The SECC ‘Precinct’ is the largest venue for the XX Commonwealth Games. The event began on July 23 but the SECC and Hydro box offices have been closed to the public since July 4. As Professional Security crosses the Millennium Bridge a sign says that it and another footbridge will be closed to the public from July 21 until the end of the Games, a fortnight later. Outside the SECC is a perimeter fence and on the inside side of it you can only see people in fluorescent jackets and white hard hats. Though Glasgow 2014 is not on the scale of London 2012, it’s greater than the usual summer events that Scotland and other parts of the UK run – T in the Park (the music festival), Ryder Cup golf, the Rugby World Cup 2015. The eyes of the world keep watching. Professional Security is here to see the latest in Project Servator, a new approach to policing tactics to combat crime, including terrorism, and meanwhile to reassure the public. Our May issue featured One New Change beside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, as an example of how the City of London Police are working with that shopping centre and other private guard forces. Police Scotland, the single force for the country, is rolling out Servator for the Commonwealth Games. The fine weather helps. A cool breeze comes off the Clyde and you hear the rush of the out of sight traffic on the Expressway. At the entrance to the SECC Precinct, a man in white shirt, dark tie and trousers, hard hat, and fluorescent jacket holds a clipboard. Four young men in black polo-necks approach. The man with clipboard says: “Gents, can I see your passes,” and from the delay at the gate until the four are let through, he plainly means what he says.

Inside the marquee in George Square in the city centre you can buy Clyde, the Games mascot, in sizes from £8 to £100, and other official merchandise. On the lampposts around the square, as elsewhere in Glasgow, are the banners for the Games. ‘Bring it on,’ say some. It’s 3pm and plenty of people are sunning themselves on the benches around the statue of Sir Walter Scott, and the grass. There are plenty of police. In front of the city chambers are two police horses, that draw parents with children, as police horses always do. When a police helicopter hovers overhead, conversation is difficult. Parked in a corner is a Community Safety Glasgow (CSG) liveried CCTV vehicle. The police officers are without hurry going around the square, talking to people, and handing out leaflets badged with Police Scotland, Glasgow City Council, CSG and Glasgow 2014. That is not mere politeness; the partnership working is real. A CSG warden walks beside a police officer. As the Servator leaflet puts it, ‘Together, we keep people safe.’ Briefly the leaflet describes the parts of Servator: uniformed officers (‘feel free to talk to these’); search dogs (‘they can sniff out hidden drugs, firearms and explosive materials’); plain clothes operators (‘they help us keep an eye out for people seeking to avoid our checks’), metal detection arches, searches, CCTV and other checks (‘that may not be visible’). Just as in life what does not happen is the most telling thing, what’s remarkable about Servator is the calm in the square. If such a large policing operation were anywhere else, your natural reaction would be; what on earth is going on? Here, then, is one of the dilemmas for security management, well managed; how to do security overtly, without scaring people or rubbing them up the wrong way? And yet, Servator sets out different messages to the criminal, or the terrorist doing hostile reconnaissance; the authorities are acting against you, including measures you cannot see, or predict in time or place. Part of the Servator training for uniformed and covert officers alike is to spot suspicious behaviour and talk. If someone sees all the uniformed officers and turns on their heel, why is that? And it did happen at George Square; police found it was because someone had lately been caught urinating in a bin and didn’t want to see police again. One of the officers Professional Security speaks to is PC Rachael McKenzie. When later she has a conversation with a young man, you wonder: is the man asking about the operation out of curiosity, because he hopes to become a police officer, or is he a terrorist? It turns out he is trying to find out more because he is going to work on the Games.

At the entrance to the merchandise marquee stands a man in blue jeans, and a Calvin Klein blue polo-neck with a pair of black sunglasses tucked into the top. He is Chief Insp Pat O’Callaghan, the bronze commander. While talking with Professional Security he is listening through an earpiece in his left ear to the radio communications of the Servator operation. “We often talk about partnership work, how police and partners can make a difference. This is one of the first projects I have encountered that is making a difference. Through joint working, information sharing and most importantly the sharing of intelligence which is leading to deployment on the ground today, already we have been directed by CCTV resources to various individuals, identified from the CCTV control room,’ meaning CSG’s on London Road, a mile to the east. “And in addition the control room has been responsible for a number of positive outcomes for us.” Here is another tantalising example of how Servator applies to private security, and indeed any part of the service sector: how can any security work or spend justify itself? If crime is deterred, how can you prove that?! Part of Servator is evaluation, besides the science (or art, or both?) of deciding where to run a Servator operation, and when, and with what mix of resources, to make most use of them. The purpose, as Pat O’Callaghan says, is a safe and enjoyable Games for all.

Why should Professional Security readers take an interest in Servator? Because the partnership work goes beyond local government community safety – in fact relies on as wide a spread as possible: briefings of pubs and retailers, bus firms, ScotRail, taxi firms and their drivers, even homeless hostels. The idea is that the ‘hostile’, encountering a Servator operation, will seek to avoid it yet want to know about it, maybe by asking a bus driver or coffee shop barista. Servator has all the more deterring power if even such non-security people can tell the ‘hostile’ what Servator is about. In London, security managers and non-security people alike may well have seen the awareness posters. Much thought has gone into the content and tone of messages; that they look easy to read, and unthreatening to the law-abiding. Several other posters are going ‘back of house’ at the Games, at ‘break-out rooms’ or canteens for instance, to remind Games staff of security. Again, the attention to detail is striking. The public posters have a common background colour; the ‘back of house’ ones another, whether their topic is CCTV, or the sniffer dogs, or (alongside an ‘authorised personnel only’ sign) access control. Even where each poster goes has a policy. The ‘authorised personnel only’ poster goes best near where there are such doors, and the CCTV poster in a place with CCTV. Because if you were to put the CCTV poster in a rest room with no CCTV camera in sight, people might think: am I being watched here?! To return, then, to that tightrope between doing security properly, while not spoiling things for the law-abiding and for business. The word legacy cropped up during Professional Security’s day in Glasgow – and as in London, public police have an appetite for carrying on the partnership work, such as the CSSC. Briefly, a Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications was set up for the London Olympics, offering a hub to pass news and briefings to businesses by sector – such as retail, petrochemical, logistics and construction – so that they can be resilient. As with CSSC in London, the Scottish equivalent seeks to inform some 176,000 businesses about road closures, or anything that might affect them. CSSC Scotland does bridge calls to security managers. Again, the partnering is at once symbolic and practical – on the CSSC Scotland board are Deputy Chief Constable Steve Allen, featured last issue, and Alasdair Macfarlane, head of corporate security UK and Ireland for Royal Bank of Scotland. RBS host the CSSC in Glasgow; Det Sgt Joanthan Pringle is seconded as project officer and Johanna Buchanan the project manager is seconded from RBS.

But we have not done with George Square yet. Even as he listens through his earpiece to a ‘positive’, Chief Insp O’Callaghan says: “There will be a vast number of visits to the city over the 11 days of the games,” and Servator’s part in security is not only such ‘deployments’ but, more importantly for O’Callaghan, delivering the Servator message to non-security staff. “Not only will they provide additional eyes and ears, but they will reassure visitors to Glasgow.” And it’s not merely for the city centre; O’Callaghan makes a point of saying that smaller retail units have been very supportive, and retail generally. Here lies an intriguing cultural difference. London like other world cities has notoriously anonymous public spaces; by contrast Glaswegians are happy to chat and have been curious to ask what Servator, what the visible policing is about. Once told it’s to do with the upcoming Games, their curiosity is satisfied. (Many more questions, and officers might ask themselves, why is this person so interested?!) But Glaswegians are quick to talk with strangers, even taking offence if strangers do not talk to them. Might Servator be falling on more fertile ground in the regions than the capital, quite apart from the fact that the public in Glasgow as London want ‘their’ Games to be a success? If Servator is to roll out to other cities as a policing method – to use private security resources, and the public as ‘eyes and ears’, besides using the police’s finite resources to the full – organisers have one more thing to evaluate.

What they say

Eileen Williams MBE, Security Training Manager at the Glasgow Games Organising Committee

“Our aim is to support Servator by communicating to the thousands of men and women working at the events that they too have an important role to play in being vigilant when working and travelling to and from events.”

CSSC Hub, Johanna Buchanan, CSSC Scotland Project Manager

“Through CSSC’s wide network of businesses and Industry Sector Leads we have been able to get the word out about Servator. We have engaged small and large organisations in supporting Servator. The effect of this is to extend the footprint of project Servator and our public outreach by creating staff ambassadors for vigilance.”

Community Safety Glasgow, Johann Watson, Head of Security and Business Development

“The Glasgow Operations Centre is the eyes of the city during the games and Community Safety Glasgow is watching closely with Police Scotland to support Project Servator to keep Glasgow safe and secure. Our CCTV cameras, Command and Control Vehicles and specially trained Community Enforcement Officers will be looking for suspicious activity and will be working on the ground with officers from Police Scotland to help coordinate this project.”


For more about the Games, visit For more about Police Scotland and Servator visit the Police Scotland website.

To visit Glasgow in person, see the city council tourism website. Security and police visitors may note that a more security-related statue in George Square is of the founder of the Met Police, Sir Robert Peel.

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