Territorial Support Group (UK)

Territorial Support Group (UK)
August 08 17:51 2011 Print This Article

The Territorial Support Group (TSG or CO20) is a Central Operations unit of London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) consisting of 720 officers, that specialises in public order containment among other specialist policing. The TSG is a uniformed unit of the MPS that replaced the controversial Special Patrol Group in 1987. TSG units patrol the streets of the capital in marked police vans; officers can be identified as TSG from the distinctive ‘U’ in their shoulder numbers.


Today the TSG has three main tasks in the policing of the Metropolitan Police District:

  • Securing the capital against terrorism.
  • Responding to disorder anywhere within London.
  • Reducing priority crime through borough support.

Public Order

Although public order is not the TSG’s only role, it is certainly their most visible and well-known. Like most Police Support Unit vehicles, TSG vans are equipped with mesh window shields and officers are equipped with acrylic glass riot shields, visored ‘NATO’ helmets, shin and elbow guards, along with fireproof coveralls when required. This level of protection allows them to deal with many violent situations, including riots, football violence and suspects armed with a variety of weapons. TSG officers are trained to a higher standard of operational readiness in their public order role than most other Police Support Units outside London; TSG training is refreshed every five weeks as a matter of routine. Exercises are conducted predominantly at the MPS Specialist Training Centre in Gravesend, Kent, though other sites are used as required, and encompass all public order scenarios; officers will undergo extensive riot training including being petrol bombed in large scale engagements, prison clearance tactics, footballstadium scenarios, night club scenarios, aircraft, rail and various ‘angry-man’ scenarios, as well as additional specialist training. TSG units spend considerable time training with other specialist police teams as well as certain military units. Also, if a siege situation is present, but firearms are not involved, TSG will often be deployed to counter such threats.

Borough support

TSG provides support to regular divisional officers through high-visibility patrols, surveillance and decoy operations while also providing a presence on the streets. Boroughs are also supported through the provision of

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a ‘Commissioner’s Reserve’ a section of TSG that is on standby all year round; it is designed so such a unit is always available to respond anywhere within the Metropolis to quell public order problems, from a bar brawl to large scale public disorder. Day to day TSG assist the boroughs in handling and relocating particularly violent prisoners.

Terrorism response

TSG is equipped and trained to deal with the aftermath or evacuation during or after a terrorism emergency in London, and the unit includes a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) trained team. Working closely with SO15 (the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command) TSG also has counter-terrorism responsibilities.


Potential TSG candidates are selected from mainstream divisional officers. Officers are selected on merit and much emphasis is placed upon their personal policing ability, motivation, resilience and good communication skills. Fitness and stamina are also seen as essential attributes of TSG personnel. Applicants must be recommended by a senior officer (minimum rank of Inspector) whilst on division.


Mercedes Sprinters are the standard vehicle of TSG and each van transports six Constables and a Sergeant. Three of these vans can form an operational Serial ready to respond to incidents; following the national PSU model this would include an Inspector, three Sergeants, eighteen Constables, two medics and three drivers.

TSG officers are not routinely armed, but are equipped with Speedcuffs, Monadnock fixed batons and CS/PAVA Incapacitant Spray like divisional officers. TSG does, however, have its own firearms capability with officers from ‘1 Area’ being trained as Authorised Firearms Officers (AFOs) on standard-issue firearms such as the Glock 17 and Heckler & Koch MP5 semi-automatic carbine, as well as less-lethal weaponry such as the L104A1 Baton Gun and X26 Taser. Officers from ‘1 Area’ conduct certain infrequent armed patrols within London, usually supplementing Specialist Firearms Command. Instead of TSG officers wearing standard black trousers and white shirt, when policing demonstrations they often wear fire-retardant overalls with their stab vests over the top.

TSG is also authorised to deploy Tasers. They have been in use for some time by Trojan teams and are now authorised for use by TSG officers. Tasers are traditionally used to incapacitate a suspect where the use of baton or incapacitant spray has proved ineffective, and the use of a firearm is inappropriate. Tasers are intended to be a less-lethal option for police where a suspect proves particularly violent and/or resistant to conventional means of arrest.

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