Aviation Security Operational Command Unit

Aviation Security Operational Command Unit

The Aviation Security Operational Command Unit (CO18) is a Central Operations unit of London's Metropolitan Police Service, which is responsible for providing law enforcement and security for both Heathrow and London City airports. London's other airports, Gatwick and Stansted, are policed by the Sussex and the Essex police respectively, as they are not located in the Metropolitan Police District.


Policing at Heathrow was initially undertaken by the Civil Aviation Authority. In 1965, the responsibility was taken over by the British Airports Authority Constabulary, which subsequently passed to the Metropolitan Police on 1 November 1974 as a consequence of the Policing of Airports Act 1974.

Policing of London City Airport has always been undertaken by the Metropolitan Police, with Aviation Security acquiring the remit from local officers during 2004.

Policing today

The unit employs around 400 Police Officers, the vast majority of whom are armed. As well as dealing with routine policing incidents, Aviation Security must always guard against terrorism and be ready to respond to an aircraft emergency. Human trafficking is another area policed with close working relationships existing with the UK Border Agency. Traffic wardens and Police Community Support Officers work at both airports.

In 2005 the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, announced that Specialist Operations units were to be re-aligned. The plans included forming three new departments within Specialist Operations to carry out specific functions:

# Protecting People, (Splitting the functions of both SO14 & SO16 and merging them with parts of SO17, SO18 and SO12)
# Protecting Places, (Splitting the functions of both SO14 & SO16 and merging them with parts of SO17 and SO18)
# Counter Terrorism Command (Merging SO12 & SO13 together)

On the 2 April 2007, SO18 transferred to the Central Operations business group and became CO18. [cite web|url=http://www.mpa.gov.uk/committees/ppr/2007/070517/11.htm|title=Central Operations Directorate management information|access date=2007-05-17]

Firearms commonly used for armed airport policing duties:

* German Heckler & Koch MP5 A3(Semi-Automatic Carbine)
* German Heckler & Koch G36C (Semi-Automatic Carbine)
* Austrian Glock 17 (Pistol)
* American XP26 Taser Armed Response Airport Vehicles patrol the entry and exit points to the main terminal buildings and the perimeter roads only. Also armed foot patrols are inside.

Aviation and Roads Policing Unit (Traffic Unit)

One of the key operational units within CO18 is the Aviation and Roads Policing Unit (also known as the Road Policing Unit).

The unit is manned by a small group of specialist traffic officers trained in Road Collision Investigation, Traffic Law Enforcement and experienced in dealing with collisions and incidents involving aircraft on the airfield. They are responsible for evidence gathering at the scene of any serious incident involving aircraft arriving or departing Heathrow's runways.

Traffic Officers are the only police officers who routinely patrol the airport unarmed.

The officers can be distinguished from their armed colleagues as they wear high visibility jackets, white caps and drive conventionally motorway marked battenburg liveried vehicles.

They can be regularly seen on the strategic motorway network surrounding the airport, the perimeter roads and also on the terminal forecourts of the airport where, along with enforcing the road traffic regulations and assisting the free flow of vehicles, they undertake a highly visible public reassurance counter-terrorism role.


* " [http://www.met.police.uk/job/job943/live_files/6.htm Three decades of policing the airport] ," "The Job," 26 November 2004.

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