The US property tycoon, Donald Trump, has come under attack from Grampian Police for repeatedly demanding tougher security at his controversial golf resort being built at the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire, according to internal police reports seen by the Sunday Herald.
The billionaire has piled pressure on the police to increase protection of the estate by making more patrols and responding more rapidly when called. Over the last two years Trump and his aides have held numerous meetings and discussions with senior police officers, urging them to do more.
A series of memos marked “restricted” show that the police have struggled to resist this pressure, and have become worried that their impartiality would be damaged. Trump had “unrealistic expectations” that Grampian police would behave like the New York Police Department (NYPD), police officers said.
The revelations come against a background of growing disillusionment about the police’s relationship with the Trump Organisation. Two documentary filmmakers were arrested and imprisoned after interviewing one of Trump’s staff, but then had charges dropped.
And local residents opposed to the Trump development say they no longer bother calling the police if there’s an incident because of “the perception that they are working as a private security force for Trump.”
In response to a freedom of information request, Grampian Police has released over 200 pages of internal reports, memos and emails detailing its tense and sometimes “difficult” relationship with the Trump Organisation since it won planning permission for a £750 million golf and hotel development in November 2008.
The documents reveal that Trump, his son and his senior aides frequently pressed individual police officers to beef up security to ensure their personal protection and to combat vandalism. But their unrelenting demands irked the police, who kept trying to “manage” Trump’s expectations.
On one occasion on 7 October 2010, Trump personally summoned local police inspector Steven Pratt to meet him at short notice to defend policing tactics. In a formal minute of the meeting, Pratt said he reminded Trump that the aim was to police with the co-operation of the community “as opposed to what he was used to in the USA”.
Pratt was ordered to write the minute by his Aberdeenshire divisional commander, chief superintendent Mark McLaren. McLaren was anxious to “avoid similar circumstances in the future” because they could make the police look biased.
“Without independent corroboration of what was discussed, the purpose of the meeting could be open to speculation which could potentially undermine our neutral stance,” McLaren wrote.
“To a neutral observer, a police inspector meeting with a visiting, multi-millionaire American businessman, with a vested interest in a massive and extremely powerful business venture, does not sit equally with any visit to a local resident concerned about their home and property.”
On another occasion on 28 October 2009 Trump’s son and his senior aide, George Sorial, ambushed Grampian Police’s critical incident planning coordinator, inspector Derek Hiley. They turned up unexpectedly at a meeting and demanded to know what the police reaction would be “if a dreadlocked individual in combats was on the estate in the middle of the night”.
According to an email he wrote to colleagues later that day, Hiley warned against Trump’s security officers tackling any intruders, and suggested calling the police. “It was a difficult 10 minutes that kind of sets the scene as to where we are in the relationship,” Hiley wrote. “Trump’s expectations remain very high.”
Hiley and a colleague met again with Donald Trump junior, Sorial and others on 4 May 2010. It was clear they wanted “to develop relations with Grampian Police, using their relationship with NYPD as an example,” said Hiley.
“George Sorial was quite direct advising he wanted a greater policing involvement on the estate as they move onwards and upwards.”
In response Hiley said he was “realistic, advising of competing demands and resources”. But the police did agree to conduct more patrols of the estate in response to a recent incident of vandalism, and to tell the media that was happening.
Another account of the meeting said that Hiley “answered the Trump Organisation’s concerns and clarified some of the organisation’s unrealistic expectations.”
The police emails also reveal that Hiley had met with Trump’s director of security, the ex-NYPD policeman Keith Schiller, in May 2009 to discuss security at the Menie estate. Afterwards, he received a warm email from Schiller, passing on his personal mobile number and looking forward to working together.
In November 2009 Hiley urged police officers to maintain “a positive relationship” with Trump’s security staff so they “get to know one another”. But he warned them not to get in all-terrain vehicles because Trump’s staff drove them too fast.
Trump feared that protestors would take direct action against his golf development. In one report, police agreed there was a threat from “hardcore individuals who will be extreme in their views and trained to avoid or delay capture by the police.”
Discussions took place between the police and Trump’s staff about what to do “should an incident like tripods or tunnelling occur on the estate”. In the past protestors have used large tripods to occupy sites, and have dug tunnels or lived in trees.
If this kind of non-violent direct action happened “there will be an expectation from the Trump people that we take some action,” said chief superintendent McLaren in an email on 20 October 2009.
“I think it is wise to start discussions with the Trump people now to manage expectations about what our approach is likely to be,” he wrote. “My guess would be that this thinking will not meet with the approval of the Trump people.”
Grampian Police also complained about money they wasted preparing for a visit by Trump in July 2009 that was cancelled at the last minute. Some officers considered trying to recover £2,069.76 from the Trump Organisation, but were advised that this “could give an impression of closeness that is not accurate”.
Local residents opposed to Trump golf complex remain to be convinced that the police are impartial, however. “If something happens on the estate most of the locals won't bother calling the police because of the perception that they are working as a private security force for Trump and his personnel,” said David Milne, who lives next to the planned development.
“I do actually have some sympathy for Grampian Police being caught in the middle of an argument like this, with the constant hassle from the Trump Organisation to do their bidding on one side, and the laws of the land on the other, along with the rights of the individuals.”
Anthony Baxter, one of the documentary filmmakers arrested by police on 30 July 2010, was scathing about the police’s role. “Police claims that they are impartial don’t stand up to scrutiny,” he said.
Baxter directed the 95-minute film, ‘You’ve been Trumped’, which has been playing to sell-out audiences across Scotland. It includes footage of his arrest, which led to four hours in prison and a charge of breach of the peace, subsequently abandoned.
The film is being shown tonight at Edinburgh Filmhouse, accompanied by the launch of a new song by Scottish singer-songwriter, Karine Polwart. Later this month it is being screened again in Aberdeen, and at a festival in New York, to which Trump has been invited.
Baxter, who is based in Montrose, said he used to respect the police. “But after this incident my faith has been absolutely shattered,” he told the Sunday Herald.
Grampian Police, however, defended their behaviour. “Grampian Police are committed to operating in a manner which is both fair and impartial at all times, whilst attempting to meet the expectations of all those we serve,” said a police spokesman.
“The force will strive to maintain the highest levels of service delivery in keeping our communities safe. This as always will be achieved within the framework of the law and in line with our organisational values.”
The Trump Organisation said it has been under attack from extreme fringe groups “intent on vandalising our site”. Added a spokeswoman: “After a spat of serious incidents, we asked for police intervention and assistance.”
But these explanations were dismissed by the Green MSP Patrick Harvie. “Mr Trump seems to think that the police force is his own private plaything,” he said.
“It's vital that the rich and powerful aren't allowed to use the police to help them bully other people. The testimonies of local residents and the footage I've seen of Baxter being arrested in a totally unacceptable way give the clear impression that Grampian police are failing to maintain their neutrality.”