Select Committee on Defence First Report


50. Concern was expressed to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, and has been repeated during consideration in the House of the present Bill, that MDP officers may not have had sufficient experience in dealing with the general public to properly prepare them for taking on new powers which are likely to increase this contact. The Armed Forces Bill Committee, while acknowledging that the MDP did have contact with civilian residents and employees on defence property, said in its Report—

We accept that the training of MDP officers is of a standard comparable to Home Department forces; however, theoretical training on a course is one thing, learning 'on the job' is another. Our concern centres on the range of experience of MDP officers, particularly in dealing with the general public.

They wished to see monitoring of any adverse effects arising from the MDP's increased public role, and appropriate measures taken to provide additional training if this proved to be necessary.[104]

51. MDP witnesses confirmed to us that initial training for their officers is the same as for local police forces. They acknowledged that the experience of an MDP officer is different, but pointed to: the increased contractualisation of the defence environment, which means there are more civilians employed on the defence estate; the policing by the MDP of public events such as the Farnborough Air Show; and their coverage of garrison areas such as Salisbury Plain and Catterick; to demonstrate the contact which the force has with non-Service personnel.[105] Since the sale of the married quarters estate, houses within the estate are owned by civilian as well as Service families. This means that MDP officers policing the estate already frequently deal with incidents involving civilian families, and local police forces are usually happy for MDP officers to take the lead in such incidents.[106] The Minister told the House that the MDP's 'primary role' is in dealing with 'civilians, dependants, contractors, trades people and visitors to our sites.[107] The MDP reports that the introduction of Area Policing Teams and Unit Beat Officers has increased the force's contact with members of the wider public but that this has not led to an increase in the number of complaints.[108]

52. The Assistant Chief Constable believed the fact that MDP officers had been deployed in Kosovo, in support of the UN International Police Force, after only three weeks' additional training, demonstrated their ability to cope with even the most challenging policing duties.[109] Local police forces are keen to recruit MDP officers, who are then deployed with little further training: 31 officers left the MDP for local forces in 2000.[110] ACPO's representative told us that he had no evidence to suggest that MDP officers were not capable of dealing with the public in sensitive circumstances, and he believed that his colleagues' confidence in the MDP was demonstrated by their current involvement in joint policing activities.[111]

53. The Assistant Chief Constable of the MDP informed us that additional training would be provided to MDP officers on the likely effects of the Bill's provisions; and that policy guidelines and procedures and training and awareness packages are in the process of being developed.[112] We welcome this and expect the MDP Chief Constable to ensure that appropriate additional training is provided to his officers if it becomes apparent that this is necessary.

104  HC 154-I, Session 2000-01, op cit, paragraphs 51-52 Back

105  Q 18 Back

106  Q 23 Back

107  HC Deb, 26 November 2001, c 778 Back

108  HC 609, Session 1999-2000, op cit, p 10 Back

109  Q 20; see also HC Deb, 26 November 2001, cc 778-9; and 18 April 2000, c 429w Back

110  Q 20 Back

111  Q 98 Back

112  Q 12 Back

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Prepared 6 December 2001