SCHOOLBOY: “MetPro officers were aggressive”

AN EMAIL in which a “senior officer” at MetPro Emergency Response confirms that his team had been secretly filming Barnet residents – and defends their actions – was sent to a 16-year-old school boy just a week after the controversial council meeting on March 1, it has emerged.

Last week the Ham&High revealed that the security company, which had been paid more than �250,000 in 10 months by Barnet Council, secretly filmed residents at this full council meeting at Hendon Town Hall.

Alexander Clayman, a Year 12 pupil at Finchley Catholic High School, was forced to wait in the cold for an hour before being allowed into an over-flow room. He was so concerned about the way the officers behaved he wrote directly to MetPro Emergency Response to register his discomfort.

He said: “They were just quite aggressive and they seemed to be enjoying the power that they shouldn’t have had – they think they are police but they aren’t, they are security officers. I asked why they were wearing what looked like CS spray and carrying handcuffs.”

Seven days later on March 8, Kevin Sharkey – who describes himself as a Senior Officer (or SO) of MetPro Emergency Response, and who was listed as company secretary of the recently dissolved MetPro Rapid Reponse – replied.

Mr Sharkey confirmed that some of the MetPro Emergency Response staff were using “state of the art body worn surveillance equipment recording both video and audio” on the night of the meeting on March 1.

Noyan Nihat the director of newly-formed MetPro Emergency Response has since claimed that only one of the three “emergency response” officers was recording from a body-worn camera on the night.

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Barnet residents who were at the meeting have described the MetPro officers uniforms – which were branded with MetPro Rapid Response not Emergency Response – as “menacing” and “intimidating”, an issue Alexander also raised in his email.

Mr Sharkey said his officers were wearing “approved personal protective equipment which is required as part of their job role and is an insurance requirement.”

He also said that “physical fitness” was required due to the nature of their job.

Mr Sharkey went on to accuse Alexander of judging the character of the officers “based on their physical appearance”. He continued: “In today’s day and age I must frown upon this type of prejudice.”

Alexander, referring to the poorly written email response, said: “In this day and age we use spell-check so I would have to say, I frown upon his grammar.”

But Julia Hines, of Briarfield Avenue, a mother of two and chair of Barnet AgeUK, who was “guarded” by the officers in an overflow room at the meeting supports Alexander’s concerns, describing their uniforms as “pseudo-military”.

Following last week’s admission by Mr Sharkey in the Ham&High that residents had been filmed by officers from MetPro Emergency Response as well as an article about the company’s predecessor – MetPro Rapid Response – going into administration owing hundreds of thousands to the tax payer, several influential bloggers and community leaders have joined together to write an open letter to Barnet demanding an independent enquiry into the tendering process for the contract.

Among the signatories is Theresa Musgrove, author of the Broken Barnet blog, and Roger Tichborne, author of the Barnet Eye. Alexander Clayman has also signed the petition that was simultaneously published on six blogs.

Barnet Council has terminated the contract it has with MetPro Emergency Response. They have now awarded the contract to security company Blue9. Bosses have also confirmed that they have destroyed CCTV taken on the night.

A council spokeswoman said: “After a full legal review of the council’s rights and obligations we formally terminated our contract with MetPro on March 31. At that point the council ceased to work with MetPro and Blue 9 Security, who currently provide security services at other council properties, took their place.

“At no point has the council ever authorised security staff carrying lapel cameras. As soon as we realised MetPro had filmed on our premises without authorisation we asked them to send in their footage and destroyed it.

“The council has written again to MetPro asking them to immediately remove any reference to Barnet Council from their website, to confirm that the council has at no point authorised filming on our premises and to retract any statement suggesting otherwise.

“Given the nature of the termination of this contract we would, and are, as a matter of course conducting a management review of the performance.”