The Flying Squad
is a branch of London
's Metropolitan Police Service
. It was formed in 1919, as the "Mobile Patrol Experiment" A branch of the Criminal Investigation Department
(CID), in response to a crime wave that followed the end of World War I
. Its members were originally nicknamed the "thief takers". It consists of police officers
whose task is to detect and prevent armed robbery
and similar crimes. The name alludes to two facts. First, that when the squad was first formed it was equipped with two old Crossley
cars that had formerly belonged to the Royal Flying Corps
; and second, that Flying Squad officers operate across the boundaries of London's usual police divisions, often (at least in the public imagination) in vehicles driven at high speeds.
As a result of the serious increase in crime, particularly violent offences, following the Second World War, the Flying Squad became an independent central branch of the Commissioner's Office at Scotland Yard. It was given the operational code, COC8, a designation it would keep for 30 years.
In 1978 it was renamed the "Central Robbery Squad". Its most popular nickname is "the Sweeney" (in Cockney rhyming slang, "Sweeney Todd" corresponds to "Flying Squad") The squad are also nicknamed: "The Heavy Mob".
The Flying Squad's work was dramatised in the 1970s British television
series The Sweeney
, starring John Thaw
and Dennis Waterman
. This was the era in which the squad's close ties with the criminal
fraternity, which had always been a necessary part of its strategy, were being exposed to public criticism. A number of scandals involving bribery
were revealed, and on 7 July 1977
, the squad's commander, Detective Chief Superintendent Kenneth Drury
, was convicted on five counts of corruption and jailed for eight years. Twelve other officers were also convicted and many more resigned
. These and other scandals led to a massive internal investigation
by the Dorset Constabulary
into the Metropolitan Police Service
and the City of London Police
– code named Operation Countryman
The largest investigation ever undertaken by the Flying Squad was instigated in 2000 after the squad received intelligence
that a group of individuals were planning a robbery
from the Millennium Dome
. Their goal was to steal the De Beers Millennium Diamonds, eleven rare blue stones and the 777 carat flawless Millennium Star. Worth over £200million, the diamonds are second in value only to the Crown Jewels making them a high profile target for only the most organised criminals. With this information the Flying Squad initiated Operation Magician, the largest of its kind. The perpetrators: William Cockram, Raymond Betson, Aldo Ciarrocchi, Kevin Meredith and Robert Adams were arrested during the commission of the crime and charged the next day. Meredith was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and the rest 15 years each.
The squad now forms part of the Serious and Organised Crime Group of the Specialist Crime Directorate.
On 13 September 2007, the Flying Squad was involved in an incident outside a bank in the village of Chandler's Ford, near Southampton. Two suspected armed robbers were shot dead by members of CO19 Specialist Firearms Command, in support of a Flying Squad operation, who had been lying in wait after receiving a tip off that an armed robbery was imminent. The thieves were attempting armed robbery on a Securicor security van outside the HSBC branch when they were killed by the CO19 SFOs.
Other mentions of the Flying Squad
In the best selling game of 2002 "The Getaway" as a Detective Constable (DC) Frank Carter, who is setup by his corrupt boss Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Clive McCormack, of the Metropolitan Police's Elite Flying Squad.
The Flying Squad (1929) is the title of a novel by Edgar Wallace.
The Flying Squad is the title of several films:
- The Flying Squad (1929) - (dir. Arthur Maude Starring: Dorothy Bartlam, Donald Calthrop, Laurence Ireland, John Longden, John Nedgnol, Eugenie Prescott, Carol Reed and others. (based on the novel by Edgar Wallace)
- The Flying Squad (1932) - (dir. F.W. Kraemer) Starring: Harold Huth, Carol Goodner, Edward Chapman, Campbell Gullan, Henry Wilcoxon and others. (based on the novel by Edgar Wallace)
- The Flying Squad (1940) - (dir. Herbert Brenon) Starring: Sebastian Shaw, Phyllis Brooks, Jack Hawkins, Basil Radford, Ludwig Stössel, Manning Whiley, Kathleen Harrison and others.
In television comedy
Episode 29 of Monty Python's Flying Circus -- The Money Programme -- featured in its penultimate skit ("Inspector Flying Fox of the Yard") the "Special Flying Squad of the Light Entertainment Police, Comedy Division", which sports in its ranks officers named "Fox" and "Thompson's Gazelle" who keep interrupting the skit.
In T. S. Eliot's poem Macavity, the titular feline criminal is referred to as "the Flying Squad's despair" (as well as "The Napoleon of Crime", a term also used for the Arthur Conan Doyle villain, Moriarty).