Nearly 10,000 police officers are being drafted in to cover next month's Nato summit in Wales, an event described by the officer in charge of the security operation as “completely uncharted territory” for UK policing.
The number of police officers involved in protecting the two-day event, based at the Celtic Manor resort outside Newport and attended by 67 heads of state, who will discuss crises ranging from Ukraine to Iraq, equates to almost 8% of the police strength in England and Wales.
Assistant chief constable Chris Armitt, who has been seconded to Gwent police from Merseyside police to oversee an operation that he has been planning for months, said on Tuesday that protests were anticipated, including “challenging” circumstances in the form of protesters attempting to reach the summit.
“The reality is they will not get to the Celtic Manor, they will encounter the security framework around the summit site. Any attempt to breach that will result in people being arrested because they will be committing acts of damage and they will be committing public order offences.”
Of the 9,500 officers being drafted in, 1,500 will be from Gwent and South Wales police and a number will come from Wiltshire, Avon & Somerset and Gloucestershire, which fall under the operational footprint. However, 43 other forces in England and Wales, Police Scotland, Police Service of Northern Ireland, British Transport police, Ministry of Defence police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and officers from the Channel Islands are joining the operation.
The most recent comparable operation of its sort on UK soil was the G8 summit at the Lough Erne golf resort in Northern Ireland in June last year, which involved 8,000 officers policing an event attended by world leaders including Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.
Up to 12,000 officers were on duty at peak times during the London Olympics in 2012.
On this occasion, Armitt said the number of heads of state and foreign secretaries, who must receive armed protection under terms in the Vienna convention, meant this was “uncharted territory for UK policing”.
Armitt added that he expected the overwhelming majority of protests to be lawful and peaceful and would be facilitated by police who were in liaison with a number of groups.
“And I think unfortunately we will see a smaller, more difficult protest footprint, people intent on taking some form of direct disruptive action or who may be intent on committing some acts of damage,” he added.
Protests expected include a planned “mass demonstration” on 30 August, which is being organised under the banner of the Stop the War movement. It will involve a march through central Newport and a rally.
While the summit on 4 and 5 September will be based at the Celtic Manor – set in more than 2,000 acres of panoramic parkland and surrounded by eight miles (13.5km) of security fencing – events will also take place in Cardiff, while around 150 visiting dignitaries will stay at hotels in the city as well as in Swansea, Swindon, Bristol, Bath, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Newport itself.
The summit will also involve the stationing of seven Nato vessels at Cardiff Bay, with significant security contingents accompanying the various heads of state from the 28 Nato countries attending as well as those from International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) nations and Nato partner nations.
Armitt said the cost of the operation did not fall on the contributing police forces, but was centralised.
He added: “The protected persons are the very unusual aspect with this because the event is focused on heads of state and foreign secretaries, and [as] they are the two diplomatic positions that are encompassed under the Vienna convention then you almost get a double whammy in terms of armed protection for each country coming.”
The summit will focus on the situation in Afghanistan, the Russia-Ukraine crisis and Nato's future role, under the theme “building stability in an unpredictable world”.