Liverpool Cathedral is one of only five Cathedrals in Britain to employ constables. The team operate around the clock, 365 days a year to ensure security and the safety and good conduct of visitors. Read how a NEXEDGE® digital radio system provides the backbone of their lone worker communications.
Delivering security and public safety at one of the world’s largest Cathedrals.
Described by former British Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, as “one of the great buildings of the world”, Liverpool Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool, is the masterpiece of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and stands as an iconic building on Liverpool’s famous cityscape. With its Foundation Stone laid in 1904, during the 20th century hundreds of skilled craftsmen dedicated hours to constructing the magnificent edifice which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1978.
Liverpool Cathedral boasts the country’s largest organ, the world’s heaviest and highest peal of bells, an amazing panoramic view across the city and beyond as well as an awe inspiring yet intimate interior.
The building covers an area of 9,687.4 square metres (104,274 sq ft) and has a maximum capacity of 3,500 standing, or around 2,300 fully seated – a space and capacity which rivals many purpose built venues.
More than a place of worship, Liverpool Cathedral has become a world class visitor destination.
The Anglican Cathedral is seen as a spiritual heartbeat in the city and is home to a vibrant worshipping community. On weekdays visitors experience for free the exquisite evensong sung by the magnificent choir – Liverpool’s best kept musical secret. As well as traditional and contemporary worship, visitors can find quiet, contemplative spaces to reflect, pray and explore the big questions of life through discussions, art and study groups.
Increasingly, Liverpool Cathedral is regarded as a cultural and heritage destination and plays an active part in hosting many citywide events including innovative theatre and stimulating exhibitions for audiences of all ages in addition to frequent family activities, school visits and tour parties throughout the year.
In keeping with the vision of encouraging the widest possible range of visitors to the Cathedral, it houses works by five Royal Academicians: Craigie Aitchison, Tracey Emin, Christopher Le Brun and Adrian Wisniewski, and Elisabeth Frink, while sited high up in the Triforium is a unique museum of ecclesiastical embroidery formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Hoare.
Naturally, the Cathedral also has its fair share of visiting dignitaries. The Queen, Prince Charles, the Dalai Lama, Tony Blair and Sir Paul McCartney, have all visited the Cathedral in recent years.
These special occasions require a great deal of planning, increased security and close co-operation between the Cathedral’s security team, Merseyside Police, Special Branch, Royal protection officers, government departments and the various Royal households.
At the heart of the Cathedral’s security operations is Liverpool Cathedral’s constabulary.
The Guardians of Liverpool Cathedral
Liverpool Cathedral is one of only five Cathedrals nationally to employ constables; York Minster, Canterbury, Chester and Hereford Cathedrals are the other four. The constables maintain the history and tradition of ecclesiastical constables through the Cathedral Constables’ Association and while Liverpool Cathedral’s constabulary is the newest amongst its contemporaries, it no way detracts from the constables’ commitment to the security and safety of their Cathedral and all those working in and visiting it.
The Cathedral is a major visitor attraction and located in the centre of a city with a population of 445,200, which ensures the constables are kept busy.
The constables operate an around the clock, 365 day service and in addition to patrolling the Cathedral and its grounds, controlling access, parking, and ensuring the safety and good conduct of visitors, also keep watch over the adjoining college campus which is occupied throughout most of the year including in the Summer by visiting language students.
Under the direction of Les McKenna, Operations Manager and Head Constable, the Cathedral employs eight full time, uniformed constables.
Les has spent the bulk of his career at the Cathedral broken by a stint with the Greater Manchester Police Service. He sees the role of the constables as creating a welcoming environment where the Cathedral community, staff, volunteers, residents and visitors feel safe and secure. He comments: “It’s unfortunate that some people see Churches and Cathedrals as a soft touch for random acts of vandalism and theft”.
Les continues: “In the past, the Cathedral did not routinely prosecute thieves. This approach proved to be ineffective in deterring criminals and the Cathedral lost significant sums. So in the mid 1980’s the policy changed. Today, we do prosecute thieves and have hardened our attitude to crime and anti-social behaviour”. The officers operate from The Constable’s Lodge sited at the main entrance to the Cathedral. It is fully equipped with state of the art access control and CCTV equipment with two-way radio communication as their central link between the control centre and the constables, so when the time came to upgrade their Kenwood Analogue system, they once again called in NRC (Northwest Radio Communications), the company that originally replaced the Cathedral’s ageing Philips system with Kenwood some 15 years ago.
Paul Kenealy, Managing Director of NRC picks up the story: “Les and I had several meetings where he briefed me on the requirements the constable’s next system would need to meet, not least providing extended coverage of the perimeter and improved reception within the stone buildings of the Cathedral.
The other core consideration was that with the Cathedrals’ investment in extensive CCTV coverage of the site, the plan was to move from patrolling in pairs to one man patrols, so it was vital that the radios would have lone worker and man down features. Les put this requirement to me very simply and as…”It’s vital that our team have reliable and instant communications when they are working alone – while they are covered by the CCTV cameras, it’s the radios that provide their lifeline”.
Having reviewed the options available from various manufacturers, we specified a Kenwood NEXEDGE® digital system as it met with all the immediate requirements with two added benefits. First, NEXEDGE® Digital Two-Way hand portable and in-vehicle units feature an Analogue/Digital Mixed Mode which allows them to communicate automatically with any existing analogue radios whatever the make and second, the Kenwood NEXEDGE® system is fully scalable so the system provides the flexibility for reconfiguration and future expansion including to a multi-user trunked system”.
A simple, reliable and effective NEXEDGE® digital two-way radio communications system
The NEXEDGE® talk-through or back-to-back system designed and installed by NRC provides a simple, reliable and effective communications link between each of the fifteen users and the security control centre. Current users include the constables, maintenance, vergers and management, all of whom provide the additional ears and eyes to alert the constables to incidents and suspicious behavior.
Les reports: “We have a dispatch radio in our control centre sited alongside our CCTV monitors allowing instant reporting to the other radio users. All users operate the radios to a strict protocol developed over years of experience in dealing with a wide variety of situations from crowd control, suspected terrorism, public order, theft, vandalism, anti-social behavior, health and safety to illness, accidents and even suicide.
It’s a real bonus that the NEXEDGE® radios can communicate with our existing analogue sets, especially when we need to increase our team of constables with volunteers at some of our larger events”.
Most incidents the constables deal with on a day to day basis are generally minor, but with tens of thousands of visitors and a campus population of over five hundred, they remain vigilant at all times to unusual sightings, incidents and altercations.
For the constables of Liverpool Cathedral, it’s not all work and no play
The constables of Liverpool Cathedral are a community spirited team and each year they choose a charity together and undertake a fundraising campaign.
In 2010, together with colleagues from the Cathedral and friends, the constables climbed Ben Nevis to raise money for children’s orphanages in Zimbabwe – they now have their sights set on the Three Peaks Challenge.
The closer you look, the more you see
Les McKenna certainly knows his way around the Cathedral inside and out – on taking us for a tour of the grounds, he points to some markings on the walls along the southern flank of the Cathedral, close to Rankin Porch, the scene of many a graduation ceremony for students of Liverpool John Moores University and Liverpool Hope University.
On closer inspection, those markings are clearly visible as bullet holes, scars from Second World War strafing by fighters targeting Liverpool Docks, directly to the south.
The gargoyles too reflect the troubled times during the construction of the Cathedral, although you would hardly know they were there unless pointed out to you.
Bringing things right up to date, a former Cathedral chorister and Lay Clerk who was nominated to take part in the London 2012 Olympic torch relay, will be bringing his torch the Cathedral as part of the annual Cathedral abseil, an event open the public. For Les and the Liverpool Cathedral Constables, it will be another day where they will put into practice their training and dedication to maintaining the safety and security of everyone attending. And as Les concludes: “I’m looking forward to managing this event using our new Kenwood NEXEDGE® digital two-way radio system and to the crystal clear reception we’ll be experiencing whether from the top of the 100 meter tower or furthest recess of the Cathedral building”.