London police not planning more Olympics officers, chief says

UK officials downplay security issues

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Story highlights

  • The government puts 1,200 more troops on standby for the Olympics
  • The government is already deploying 3,500 military personnel to cover shortfalls
  • Met Police not planning to boost numbers at this stage, chief says
  • British lawmakers forced the G4S chief to concede security was a "shambles"

An additional 1,200 British troops are being placed on standby for the Olympic Games, authorities said Thursday, amid a security fiasco caused by a contractor's failure to supply enough guards for the Games.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is in charge of the Games, said that there was no need to deploy extra troops but that putting 1,200 on standby means they can be moved within 48 hours rather than seven days if required.

"Safety and security will always have the highest priority. As we have said, we must prepare for every contingency," he said in a statement.

The extra troops will remain in their current locations but can be called on if they are needed during the coming weeks," he said.

"We hope that will not be necessary, but this is a sensible precaution," Hunt said. "There will be other challenges over the coming weeks, but we are confident that we are on track to stage a great Games."

The Olympics open July 27.

Hunt said that G4S, the contractor whose shortcomings have led to the shortfall, was showing progress in recruiting and accrediting staff.

"We are seeing an improvement in the company's performance, which is to be welcomed," he said.

Hunt's announcement came hours after the head of London's Metropolitan Police said it is not planning to boost the number of officers covering the Olympic Games.

"I'm confident we will not need to put more officers into it at this stage," Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe told members of London's governing body, the Greater London Authority.

Scotland Yard has not been asked to police any Olympics venues, said Hogan-Howe, the country's top police officer.

The Games organizing committee LOCOG is responsible for security at Olympics venues, he said, while police officers will be on duty outside venues.

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UK government downplays Olympics security snafu

The Home Office is in overall charge of security, he said.

"There are many aspects to security. We are not in charge of security. We are responsible for policing outside the events," Hogan-Howe said of his force.

"In the event something terrible happened, the police would get involved, as would the fire service," he added.

The chief executive of G4S, Nick Buckles, faced a grilling Tuesday by lawmakers furious at the security situation.

British lawmakers forced Buckles to agree that the fiasco is "a humiliating shambles."

Buckles said the company should not have agreed to provide 10,400 guards for the Olympics, six days after the security giant admitted it could not do so.

"We regret signing the contract," Buckles said under pressure from lawmakers.

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The company's failure forced the government to call in 3,500 extra military personnel to help.

Both the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office had rejected media reports on Wednesday that a further 2,000 troops were being tapped.

"We are constantly reviewing the extent of the G4S shortfall and the military contingency force. There are currently 11,000 military personnel assigned to venue security, alongside G4S staff and accredited volunteers," the Home Office said.

G4S has a £284 million ($444 million) government contract to provide security staff for the Olympic Games, but only 4,000 guards are trained and ready.

Buckles said there was a company "expectation" that 7,000 will be ready by the time the Games begin, although he called the exact number "a moving target."

Lawmakers appeared incredulous at the chief executive's assertion that G4S should still claim a £57 million ($89 million) management fee as part of the contract.

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Guarding the games

"Why?" demanded Keith Vaz, the chairman of Parliament's Home Affairs Committee. "You haven't managed."

Hammered by Vaz for saying he was "disappointed" about the failure, Buckles first said he was "deeply disappointed" and then that he was "sorry."

Labour lawmaker David Winnick then laid into Buckles, insisting several times that the snafu was "a humiliating shambles."

Buckles finally said he could not disagree.

The company will reimburse police forces that have to provide officers to cover for G4S shortfalls, and will "consider" paying bonuses to military and police who are called in to help, he said.

Buckles said he knew for certain on July 11 the company could not fulfill its contract, he told the committee, which is looking into security for the Games.

The company accepts "100% responsibility" for its failure, and is "extremely grateful to the military and police for helping us out," Buckles said.

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Closing the session, Vaz said lawmakers considered the company's performance "unacceptable, incompetent and amateurish" and implicitly suggested Buckles should resign after the Games.

The G4S recruits are supposed to perform tasks including venue perimeter security, such as manning X-ray machines, searching people, searching vehicles and operating closed-circuit television systems, G4S said Sunday.

G4S has said that it stands to lose up to $77 million after failing to recruit enough staff.

See how Heathrow is preparing for the London Olympics