Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence

Annex A

Letter from the Chair, ACPO General Policing Committee to the Police Resource Unit, Home Office

  I have consulted widely within ACPO and as you would expect this is not as simple a set of proposals as it first appears. We are keen, however, to help the Ministry of Defence Police and we are particularly anxious that their powers should be qualified. It does seem nonsensical for their officers to have only a citizen's power of arrest (although that is what some of my colleagues would wish to see them retain) when dealing with members of the public in an emergency. The last thing any of us would wish to see is a marked police vehicle with what appears to be a police officer in it driving past the scene of an incident.

  The proposals in Part 2 of your paper—paragraph 35(a)-(d) are generally supported and would clarify some parts of the law.

  As far as paragraph 32 is concerned, we believe that there should be a protocol drawn up to run with any legislation so that it is clearly outlined in what circumstances Ministry of Defence police officers are able to act with statutory powers. We envisage that this should include a requirement that their training be up to a certain standard and we particularly wish to ensure that their contact with the relevant Home Office force is made quickly. We have some sympathy with their officers who come across serious incidents and we believe that they should be acting as constables when they choose to get involved in dealing with such incidents. We would point out however, that many more mobile patrols seem to be undertaken by the MDP officers and in doing so we would be determined to make sure that the officers were not leaving their bases and patrolling in order to find incidents to attend.

  I am sure that proposals such as this could be worked out and a proper protocol drawn up. ACPO would be pleased to work with MDP in this process if that would be seen as helpful. This protocol could then form part of the guidance by both Ministers to their relevant Forces.

  We are already aware of the protocol that exists in terms of arming of Ministry of Defence police officers and we have no reason to believe that is not working extremely well. I am also clear that Ministry of Defence police officers acting in these circumstances would make their own force rather than the Home Office force liable for their actions.

  The final part of paragraph 32 concerns the request for assistance. Whilst I cannot immediately recall that ever having taken place and there is no evidence in the papers that this is a particular problem, I consider that if we ever were to call on their assistance it would be under our control and that therefore they would need to have statutory powers. I suspect that the MDP are more interested in offering firearms support, which is an area where most of my colleagues are extremely nervous. I therefore believe that this particular extension of their powers is not required.

  I hope this has been helpful and I would be pleased to continue work on this matter in due course.

September 2000

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