‘It’s impossible to prevent every attack’: London police chief on safety after Orlando

London’s Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe speaks to PinkNews at a meeting for LGBT businesses, in the wake of the attacks in Orlando.

Why are you here today?

This has been a shocking week for the LGBT community, and for everybody.  think it’d be really foolish if we didn’t reflect on what does that mean for us here in London.

We know we have got the Pride march coming up in a week’s time ,so we want to make sure we’ve got the plans in place that are sure will keep people safe.

We’ve got no intelligence to say that someone is going to attack that march or any of the businesses here in this area, but it’s a good time to stop, and work out if what’s going on in America means anything for what’s happening here.

We know we’ve got the biggest gay business group in Europe here in Soho, so we want to make sure we reassure people, and also tell the gay community what they can do to protect themselves.

We don’t think there’s any particular threat to this community here in London, or to the Pride march which takes place in a week. But it would be really foolish to not sit down and talk about it and make sure our security measures are in the right place.

What advice would you give to the LGBT community in terms of keeping safe?

Generally, we know there is no more threat today than before the attacks on Orlando happened. There’s no intelligence to say a group of people who is intending to attack Pride. But you have to acknowledge that human beings are all the – and when we see certain images on the TV, we have to sit down and see what we can rationalise.

We don’t think the threat level has changed – I’d just tell people to just take reasonable precautions. If you see something unusual, tell the police, tell security, or get someone to check it out.

The main message is, it’s an awful thing that happened in Orlando and it isn’t what we expect in London.

What precautions have you taken for Pride in London next week?

We have put a few more officers onto that event and a few more in reserve, just in case we should need them. We’ll try and provide more reassurance by having more officers there, we will redouble our efforts around intelligence, and we will work together with organisers to keep it safe.

I don’t think there is any objective need for [extra protections], but sometimes you have to do things that respond to how people feel. We’ll do what we can over the next few days and weeks as we look to make sure we can keep the LGBT community safe.

But on the whole, I don’t think things have really changed in terms of the objective threat assessment.

Are you expecting the event to be any different this year?

There is likely going to be more people [attending the march] – what we’re told is that it’s likely more people will come out to show solidarity, and show they’re not scared, which is a good idea.

The main challenge in policing Pride is there’s so many people here, and it’s quite a long march.

What we really want to do is to minimise disruption for everybody, and make sure it’s a safe event and an enjoyable event. We want to make sure that people are kept safe.

I think that applies every year, people are kept safe and it makes a great statement for the LGBT community. We intend to make sure that happens again, and we are sure it will go off very well.

Is there a message you have for people who are marching on the day?

Turn up, enjoy it, I think there’s no reason not to.

I think it would be a good thing to show solidarity with Orlando, and make sure that you show by your courage of turning up that you’re not going to be terrified or cowed into any different behaviour.

We want to make it a great event. We will all be working hard together with the organisers to keep it safe. I’m sure it will be safe.

Will you be marching at Pride in London to show your solidarity?

I’m not sure yet if I am this year – we’re looking at the diary.

I don’t think I’m down for it yet because of other commitments, but if it’s possible, I’m going to.

What measures will be taken to protect London’s LGBT venues?

Well, that’s one of the reasons for being here today – to talk about what we suggest those venues can think about.

We’ve got our counter terrorist security advisers here to give sensible advice and to hear from them.

The businesses themselves will know what will be good for their particular venue.

Looking here today [Heaven nightclub] we’ve got a big venue with multiple entrances and exits.

That will be entirely different for a small bar in Soho. They would have a different response if there’s some kind of attack.

We want to make sure we give some general advice and then give some specific advice at different venues.

Just getting people to think about, if something awful happened here how would you react? The police aren’t always there at that first point of an attack, so what could people do to reasonably protect themselves and finally, watch out for the unusual?

If you see it, intervene. The usual things – a bag left about, if somebody is acting strangely in this area – people who work in those venues will know. The trick is talking to either the security or the police, and get them to check it out. Usually it’s nothing but it’s worth checking

I went out and had a patrol in Old Compton Street the other day, which wasdone quietly away from the press.

We were able to meet a few people and see how they were feeling and talk to them.

We went into one or two of the bars and picked up from some of the people in the bars how they were feeling – and get them to explain some of our plans.

This has been another opportunity to get the businesses together and talk. I hope that shows that personally, I want to be supportive. I can’t do everything but I’ve got a lot of good people who will help.

Are you also working alongside MPs, following the killing of Jo Cox yesterday?

It’s tragic, horrible event that happened yesterday, when Jo Cox was murdered. It was a terrible shock and it’s terrible for her family.

It’s made everybody think about the safety of MPs in public. I know MPs really strongly that they want to be out there and meet people, and we do give our advice.

I’m afraid it’s impossible to prevent every attack. What we are all doing is reviewing what we’ve learnt from the terrible events of yesterday.

A letter from the Met to Pride in London marchers is below.

On Saturday 25 June, LGBT+ Pride in London will hold its annual parade in central London.

This is a unique event celebrating London’s diverse communities, which the Metropolitan Police Service has proudly supported for many years.

A record number of groups are registered to participate in the parade, including more than a hundred Met officers and colleagues from police forces around the UK.

Whilst the tragic events in Orlando last weekend have caused huge shock and concern across the world, there is no intelligence to suggest an increased threat to the Pride parade in London.

Police have been working closely with Pride in London for some months in planning for this event.

As a matter of course, the security plan has been reviewed and the situation is continuously monitored and remains under review.
The Met Police and Pride in London recognise that people in the LGBT+ and wider community may have increased concerns at this time. Therefore, to help provide additional reassurance and to show support for the Pride event, the Met Police will have an increased visible policing presence at the parade and in Soho.

There will be a proportionate policing plan in place on the day and Pride in London is also providing additional stewarding.
We encourage those who wish to show their support for – and stand in unity with – the LGBT+ community to come and watch the parade and attend festival events, all details can be found on www.prideinlondon.org

We hope that everyone attending Pride in London 2016 has a safe and enjoyable day.