This week’s main security and defence news has been the claim by a Police Federation branch chairman that rural officers would be “sitting ducks” in the event of an armed terrorist attack. The Daily Telegraph reports that John Apter, head of the Hampshire branch, said that a national shortage of armed officers could leave police in isolated areas “unarmed and vulnerable”. Speaking to BBC Radio 4's File on 4, Mr Apter said that there were potential targets in rural and coastal areas – such as energy and power plants – but that armed officers could be more than 70 miles away in an emergency.
Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph also reports that the Army may have to be deployed on the streets of mainland Britain to carry out routine policing duties because constables are reluctant to train as firearms officers. Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation, said officers are not volunteering to carry guns because they fear being “hung out to dry” and treated like a suspect if they discharge their weapon. It could force the Government to call in troops to carry out day-to-day guarding and patrolling duties at major transport hubs, city centres and key buildings such as the Houses of Parliament, he suggested.
The Government has announced plans to recruit 1,500 extra firearms officers in the wake of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks. But there are already at least 300 vacancies across England and Wales as numbers of authorised officers have fallen to the lowest level for seven years. A poll carried out for the Police Federation, which represents 122,000 frontline officers in England and Wales, found only one in five police in England and Wales wants to be armed with a gun.
The crisis in armed police numbers is likely to add to political pressure to act to both reduce the legal vulnerability of armed officers and to preserve existing capability – including that sourced from the MDP. The Federation has also spoken with a number of senior journalists in light of these recent news stories, in the context of demands on the MDP’s resources and the Force’s role in supporting Home Office colleagues.
Rise in break-ins and theft at MoD faculties linked with cuts to MDP
Rise in break-ins and theft at MoD faculties linked with cuts to MDP
The Daily Mirror reports that thieves have targeted Britain’s top military sites as the Government has cut the number of MDP officers. Almost 1,800 pieces of classified material were stolen from bases in the past six years, according to Government statistics. Sites targeted in the last two years include the home of the Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet, a chemical weapons research centre and 18 RAF bases. Experts fear cuts have jeopardised security and reduced protection at some of the UK’s most sensitive installations, risking the safety of thousands of personnel. The statistics also show there were just eight unauthorised entries to UK military sites in 2009. By 2015, they had increased to 45.
Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry said: “The Government has a duty to ensure our Armed Forces are safe and secure when they are in their bases, and these highly alarming figures show that they are failing in that duty. This is a direct consequence of the Tories’ short-sighted and ill-conceived spending cuts to the Ministry of Defence Police, which are set to go even deeper in the years to come.”
The story likely originated from research undertaken by Emily Thornberry’s office. The DPF recently met with Ms Thornberry and have contacted the journalist who wrote the story to ensure the Federation is approached for comment in future articles.
Call for all police officers to be armed with tasers
Sky News reports that the Home Secretary has been told that all frontline police officers should be given Taser stun guns if they want them. Representatives at the annual Police Federation conference in Bournemouth told Theresa May the move is vital in combating the high levels of violence against police officers. The first study of its kind commissioned by the Federation, which represents rank and file police in England and Wales, has revealed more than a third of officers suffer physical violence at least once a month, but still only around one in 10 are armed with Tasers. Most forces in England and Wales limit Taser deployment to highly trained firearms officers and emergency response patrols. The Federation's survey of 16,800 officers, carried out in conjunction with the University of Nottingham, found six out of 10 wanted to be able to carry a Taser.
The Home Secretary has said any decisions on the wider rollout of Taser should be down to individual chief constables.
Theresa May addresses Police Federation Conference
The Independent reports that Home Secretary Theresa May has told the Police Federation Conference that police must confront the “poison of decades-old misdeeds”. Whilst a clear reference to the outcome of the recent Hillsborough inquiry, her remarks will increase speculation that she will order an inquiry into allegations of violence and misconduct during the 1984 clash between miners and South Yorkshire Police at Orgreave. Giving her annual address, she also warned that forces are facing an investigation over their handling of domestic violence as she said that victims are “still being let down”. Overall, however, Ms May struck a less confrontational tone than during her previous appearances at the event.
Second Early Day motion on CNC retirement tabled in the House of Commons
Following last week’s tabling of an Early Day Motion regarding the retirement age of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary by SNP MP Dr Paul Monaghan, this week has seen a second motion on the same subject tabled by Jamie Reed MP (Copeland) (Lab). The motion states:
That this House notes with concern the Government's decision to omit Civil Nuclear Constabulary Officers from the entitlement to retire at 60 held by officers of Home Office Police Forces; further notes that carrying arms is obligatory for Civil Nuclear Constabulary Officers; understands that the work of a Civil Nuclear Police Officer is both vital in responding to incidents of national security and physically demanding; recognises concerns expressed by the Civil Nuclear Police Federation that the decision to extend the retirement age of officers to 65 or 68 could affect operational safety; and calls on the Government to reconsider its decision.
The motion has so far only been signed by Jamie Reed himself.
A we outlined last week, the DPF has not sought to secure an Early Day Motion due to the poor regard such resolutions are held in by many MPs. However, we are currently seeking to engage with Jamie Reed in order to inform him of the similarities between the situation facing the CNC and the MDP.
Subcontractor blamed for fake bomb scare at Old Trafford
The Daily Telegraph reports that Manchester United has laid the blame for last weekend’s security blunder at the door of a subcontractor. Tens of thousands of fans who were evacuated and a match was called off after a private security firm forgot to remove a fake bomb that had been left taped to the back of a toilet cubicle door as part of a training exercise for sniffer dog handlers at the ground four days earlier. United said the sub-contractor, Chris Reid, a retired Scotland Yard police chief who worked at the London Olympics, had signed the mocked-up improvised explosive device as having been recovered on an inventory list along with 13 other devices at the end of the drill. However, the fake bomb was subsequently found in the build-up to last weekend’s match, triggering an evacuation of the grounds.
Claim that new aircraft carriers ‘will make enemies think twice about war with UK’
The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain’s new aircraft carriers will make potential enemies “think twice” about starting future wars, their senior naval officer has said. The new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers will be become Britain’s most potent conventional weapon and change the way the Royal Navy does business, Capt Simon Petitt said. The two 65,000 tonne vessels, which have cost £6.2bn for the pair, are the largest warships ever built in Britain.
Capt Petitt, senior naval officer for the two vessels, said they would become the UK’s “most potent strategic weapon bar the continuous at sea deterrent,” adding: “It is about stopping wars rather than starting them. If someone does want to start a war I think they might think twice if they see one of these ships coming over the horizon.”
This week has seen the MoD engage in a major public relations push across the UK media in order to promote the new aircraft carriers.
Concerns raised over new Army body armour
The BBC reports that British army soldiers have raised concerns about their new body armour. Virtus, which is replacing Osprey armour, is described by the MoD as “one of the most advanced integrated body armour and load carrying systems in the world”. But among other complaints, soldiers say its webbing – where ammunition and kit is stored – has been snapping.
So far around 9,000 units of Virtus body armour, helmets and load-carrying systems have been issued to a number of units – including members of the Parachute Regiment, the Rifles, Royal Marines and Royal Artillery. The main advantage of the Virtus system is that it is lighter. But soldiers have said it gives limited space for extra equipment – such as radios and medical supplies – and that if soldiers go to ground with it they find it hard to get back up. The MoD said: “As with every new system there have been some issues during the initial roll out, and, as a result of constructive feedback from our troops, we are working with our supplier to make improvements.”
Retired General claims that Britain has become “pacifist”
The Daily Telegraph reports that David Cameron has made Britain a “semi-pacifist” nation more interested in protecting “welfare and benefits” than adequate defences, one of the country’s most senior retired generals has warned. General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, said the UK had “shrunk in to itself” and carries an “increasingly impotent stick”. The attack came as Sir Richard warned Britain and the West could be at war with Russia within a year if it fails to stand up to President Vladimir Putin’s aggression. Sir Richard highlighted comments made by Mr Cameron in 2014 that “Britain should avoid sending armies to fight” and said the impact on allies and potential adversaries was “profound”.