Statement from Commander Stuart Cundy:
Today’s publication of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry’s phase 1 report into the events of 14 June 2017 is a milestone for all those affected by the tragedy.
Our thoughts today are very much with the bereaved families and survivors of the fire as well as the wider Grenfell community. We remember with much sadness all those who lost their lives.
The Metropolitan Police was part of the emergency services’ response to the fire with officers and staff from across the Met involved in many different ways. On the ground more than 200 officers supported the work of the London Fire Brigade; some escorted residents from the tower, others maintained cordons to keep everyone outside the building safe. Territorial Support Group officers used their equipment to shield firefighters from burning debris as they entered the tower. In the control room our call handlers and operators responded to a number of calls, including speaking with people who were trapped.
The Met’s criminal investigation into the fire began immediately following the tragedy. It remains a hugely complex and detailed investigation and at any one time we have 160-180 dedicated police officers and staff working on it.
Today’s report is the culmination of several months of public hearings into the events of that night and the response of all the emergency services. We supported the inquiry with officers and staff giving written and oral evidence. The public hearings and the report are important steps in establishing a full picture of events and identifying what can be done to prevent such a tragedy in the future.
We were present throughout the inquiry hearings and heard first-hand the evidence presented. However, it is only right we fully read and assess the report to ensure any issues of relevance are identified and fed into our investigation. As you would expect, we will do this in a thorough and considered fashion and, given the length and detailed nature of the report, it will take some time.
The report makes a number of observations about the Met’s response that night.
It highlights the leadership shown by officers and the sensitive policing approach. Many police officers at the tower risked their own lives to help others. I am incredibly proud of the bravery and professionalism shown by all our officers and staff that night in such difficult and challenging circumstances.
The report also identifies how the emergency services can improve their response and work together more effectively. It recommends changes to our joint protocols to make clearer the lines of communication to be set up during a major incident. We will work with colleagues in London and nationally to review the protocols and make any necessary improvements.
The report recommends the Met, alongside the LFB, London Ambulance Service and local authorities, considers ways to improve how information is collected about survivors and is given more quickly to their families. I recognise the fire and its aftermath was an incredibly difficult and worrying time for those seeking information about loved ones. We want to do all we can to help those in such awful situations and will take this forward with other services and organisations.
There is a further recommendation that the Met and LAS review protocols and policies to ensure police call operators can identify ‘fire survival guidance’ calls from those seeking advice in life-threatening situations and pass them to the LFB as soon as possible. We will review and improve our training and policies to ensure our call handlers are better aware of such calls and take the appropriate action.
The year 2017 saw the Met and other emergency services respond to Grenfell Tower and a number of terrorist attacks. After every major incident we review our response and we have already taken a number of steps to improve how we work.
These include more training for frontline officers in responding to a major incident at the scene, and how we work alongside the other emergency services. We have also enhanced training for senior officers leading the police response from our operations room to ensure they are familiar with the latest practice. We have created a new rota of inspectors available 24 hours a day who are specifically trained in co-ordinating the casualty response to a major incident in terms of liaising with hospitals and setting up survivor reception centres.
In the light of today’s report we will revisit those improvements to ensure any further learning is implemented. There will always be learning from every incident but we are committed to providing the best possible response in challenging and tragic circumstances.
Today’s report, whilst a milestone, will undoubtedly be difficult reading for many. We remember all those so deeply affected by the tragedy.