Testing Conference Security in the Field

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Officers in uniform standing by during the “negotiations”.

Speeding police vehicles with sirens wailing caused a few heads to turn, and some other people in Barbados to stop and stare on 2 December.

Fortunately, it was not a genuine critical incident, but a drill which formed part of preparations for one. A notice in the news media the previous day would have alerted the public to the planned exercise for the UNCTAD 15 Conference by the Regional Security System (RSS). But for those who might not have seen or heard the notices, it seemed all too real.

Table Top Training Exercises

In November, the UNCTAD 15 Security cluster conducted table top planning exercises at the RSS Headquarters at Paragon. That training session included a number of scenarios designed to challenge the participants to use their plans, procedures and training to formulate and discuss their response to the different situations.

The quick succession in which the scenarios were introduced, and the limited time period which teams had a to come up with appropriate responses to the various situations tested the participants in real-time conditions. This process also allowed the team evaluating the exercise to assess the participants’ leadership and decision-making skills. In addition, plans and procedures, kit and equipment, training needs, specialist skills and overall human resource capability were assessed.

In the Field

As the preparations for UNCTAD 15 continue, the Security cluster moved from their indoor exercises to the field in December. From 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., the security officers tested themselves and their teamwork in various scenarios which could disrupt such a major international conference.

A busy operations centre directed the action in the field.

The participants, role players and observers were invited by the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) from the following national and regional agencies: RBPF, Barbados Defence Force, Barbados Fire Department, Department of Emergency Management, The Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre Security Unit, other national security agencies, Barbados Government officials (including Public Health), and UNCTAD 15 national representatives (Security, Media & Medical).

The officer scheduling the exercise was Captain Errington Shurland, Executive Director of RSS Headquarters, the officer conducting the exercise was Lieutenant Commander Brian Roberts, Director of Training, while the exercise director was Brigadier (Ret’d.) Earl Arthurs, Training Institute Manager at the RSS.

Canines were part of the action.

From a secure joint operations and command centre, the officers directed the men and women in the field to manage simulated critical incident situations.

One of these simulations involved the taking of a high-level hostage by three men. The men were demanding the release of a group of prisoners being held overseas. Major Kerry Waterman, Director of Policing and Risk Management at the RSS, led the teams involved in this exercise on the ground.

The sight of contingents of uniformed officers, some officers with canines in tow, interacting with the three hostage-takers at the historic Garrison Savannah, drew some curious onlookers. A ground soggy from recent rains added a challenge to the exercise.

All Ends Well

After some tense moments during which the hostage-takers stated their demands to police negotiators, the negotiators were able eventually to free the hostage and take him to a secure location. They succeeded in convincing the men to surrender, and took them into custody.

Maj. Waterman (left) sharing his assessment with evaluators.

An on-site debrief by Major Waterman followed the conclusion of this particular exercise. Maj. Waterman is a national hostage negotiation and crisis intervention specialist. The Barbadian is a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and has extensive experience in the United Kingdom with the Metropolitan Police Service and New Scotland Yard. Further assessment of the conduct of the exercises will be part of the process.

Other scenarios played out at various locations. RSS Training Institute Manager, General (R’td.) Earl Arthurs, expressed his satisfaction with how the day unfolded. He said in his report that, “The benefits gained from exercising both the operations centres and the response teams at the same time are numerous. The combined command post exercise and field training exercise provided realistic methods to evaluate, sustain, and reinforce individual and collective skills in preparation for UNCTAD 15. It was also executed in an environment similar to what would be used during the UNCTAD 15 Conference. The coordination of the exercise was well planned and for most part well executed.” 

After all this preparation, the best outcome would be that the Security forces will not need to put this training into practice during UNCTAD 15.

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