Lancashire Constabulary Missing Person Search Manager Course. (Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE and Training Officer Elaine Gilliland both successfully pass the course)

Every year Lancashire Constabulary kindly offer to the MRTs operating in Lancashire, places on their week long Missing Persons Search Manager Course.

This year our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE and Team Training Officer Elaine Gilliland were able to attend this Police nationally recognised course.

Held at Lancashire Constabulary Training centre at Hutton, within the HQ and Training complex of Lancashire Constabulary, the course attracted 31x students, including Gail Todd and Graham Daley from Rossendale and Pendle MRT, Nick Mattock from Bowland Pennine MRT (also a Lancashire Constabulary Officer), the New Dimensions Officer from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and 25x serving Lancashire Constabulary Officers, mostly of Sgt rank, with everybody present having experience of ’Missing from Home’ search enquiries and operations.

Each day started at 09.00hrs at Hutton with a pleasant mixture of presentations, table top exercises and practical exercises, alongside resource demonstrations.

The whole course was excellently organised by Inspector Neil Sherry (A Police search Advisor / POLSA) with considerably help from PC Alison Suffield, both of Lancashire Constabulary.

Monday 12th July, consisted of the obvious course introductions, including an overview of the NPA Guidance on Missing Persons, Grading catagories of Missing Persons, ’Golden Hour’ taskings, Behavioural characteristics and a table top exercise, and that was only the morning sessions!

Monday afternoon presentations included two members of LanConStab Communications Data Investigation Unit giving an excellent overview of Cell Phone (Mobilephone) locating during Police enquires. (Pinging as it is commonly referred to). Search Strategies and more table top exercises rounded off the first intensive day.

Tuesday 13th July, saw Sgt Gary Fretwell of West Yorkshire Police give an excellent presentation on the Shannon Matthews search (Operation Paris), probably now and forever more commonly known as the ’young girl found under the bed’ incident.

Other presentations followed throughout the day including Phil Brooks on the work. role, resources and experiences of the Police North West Regional Underwater Search and Marine Unit.

Tuesday afternoon all course participants at Myerscough Livery yard, undertaking a series of practical search exercises in the surrounding grass pastures and woodlands.

Wednesday morning started with Detective Chief Inspector Andy Webster of LanConStab outlining the role of an SIO (Senior Investigating Officer) in a Missing from Home enquiry, and how CID essentially investigate such incidents.
His presentation (as with all others on this course) included many examples of Police Operations (which discretion does not allow the reporting of here).

The last morning session of the day included Stela Stansfield and Hazel Lynch outlining the work of the ’Street Safe-Lancashire’ initiative and the work of the Children’s Society, essentially focussing on why children go missing.

Wednesday afternoon 14th July sessions included the work, role and capabilities of the LanConStab Air Support Unit Helicopter, by Police Air Observer PC Mel Jeffrey, giving the useful tip that cows are so inquisitive they will surround someone in their field, whether that be a missing person wandering about or come to harm or someone engaged in criminal activities! (Thought for the day for the MRT members present on the course, lets invest in Search and Rescue Cows!)

Nick Mattock of Bowland Pennine MRT then gave a presentation on map reading skills and tips, followed by husband and wife duo Iain and Alison Nicholson of Bowland Pennine MRT / Search and Rescue Dog Association, who outlined the work of Mountain Rescue Air Scenting and Trail Dogs. (Somewhat tired, as both had been on early morning standby to assist the Bolton MRT with a missing child search, then gone into work, then attended todays course to give their presentation).

Iain and Alison also gave a very detailed overview of the work and role of Mountain Rescue Teams, expanding upon what they can offer the Police beyond involvement in ’missing from home’ incidents.

Thursday 15th July, was totally outdoors, putting theory in to practice within the extensive grounds of Osbaldeston Riding Centre.

As Thursday was outdoors it was inevitable that the clouds darkened and the heavens opened at some stage, but thankfully all managed to stay dry by planning the searches during the rain and going out to search during the drier interludes!

And the results of the day, four MRT members (all expert searchers! – Graham of RPMRT could not attend today) pitted against the best that LanConStab could offer, well Rossendale and Pendle MRT member Gail Todd located the first exercise casualty / missing person, so the pressure was on the 25x Police Officers present to find the next one. (Somewhat uneven odds in this friendly competition, 4x MRT versus 25x Police).

The second ’MisPer’ was indeed found by a Lancashire Officer, with the race now on for the ’detailed search’ part of the training session, ie locate the ’Mispers’ mobilephone in a large field of tall and very wet grass. Full marks to the LanConStab Officer who did indeed find the phone, so the day ended 2 / 1 to the Police / MRT.

The last day of this very informative and interesting course, started with a very comprehensive presentation by Beverley Page – Banks, Branch Manager of the Central Lancashire and Fylde Branch of the Alzheimer’s Society, who gave an informed lecture on ’Understanding and respecting the person with Dementia.’ This concluded with a very thought provoking for all present DVD on the effects of Dementia, entitled ’the Edge of Darkness.’

The final session of the course was a presentation on the role and work of the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service USAR Team. (Urban Search and Rescue Team) This culminated in a demonstration of two of the Teams ’New Dimensions’ ’Module’ vehicles. (Their session ended with them being mobilised to an incident, subsequently stood down responding).

Garry and Elaine (Graham, Gail and Nick) would like to thank Lancashire Constabulary for inviting them to attend and take a full and active part in this course.

Their place on the course and the work of MRTs in Lancashire (echoed by Sgt Gary Fretwell of West Yorkshire Police) was all inclusive of MRTs.

Finally Garry and Elaine would like to extend a very big personal thanks to Inspector Neil Sherry and PC Alison Suffield for putting on the course, their unstinting help and advice and for their warm welcome and inclusivity to what is essentially a Police Course.

And of course we are now happy to report that Garry and Elaine are now Lancashire Constabulary Missing Person Search Managers.