Eamon Keating, Chairman of the Defence Police Federation, looks at the demands on our members and how there will be some jobs that we can no longer fulfil.
The work of Ministry of Defence Police is vital.
But sadly as we continue to face the prospect of cuts to our budgets – and therefore our police officer numbers – you are left with the feeling that the people who are making the decisions have no genuine understanding of what we do, security and the implications of our force continuing to shrink in size.
The MDP is 300 officers short of where it should be – due to recruitment not keeping pace with workforce reductions.
People behind desks are making decisions on budgets without having a full understand of the critically important job our members’ undertake.
They need to make that saving…so they’re asking for the money.
The people on the other side, who are the people we’re actually protecting on the ground, who build, use and maintain the nation’s defence assets, its people and their equipment. They get it, that we look after them, because it is so essential to our national security, they understand the threat and their position is, ‘Absolutely not, we cannot afford to lose any more police officers, or take any more risk’.
What we need is a realisation from politicians of the value that the Ministry of Defence Police really provides.
We don’t need the rhetoric of ‘You do a fantastic job, your people are wonderful’, but an actual realisation of the product that we deliver and what the outcome of that product is, which is that terrorists don’t come near our sites because of the risk to them, the chances that they’ll get caught, and because we have the capacity to stop them.
Once that’s really genuinely recognised and understood, then why would you damage that?
Why would you risk the security of the nation?
If you were building a secure establishment the first thing you put in place is security and it is the last thing you remove. You would think twice about diluting security – but that frankly is what the Ministry of Defence is doing to itself and it's police service.
My concern is that the hypothetical risk will become the real risk and something will happen.
At that point, as is always the case, then it’ll be hindsight that will kick in and we’ll start to build our capacity back up. But that will be too late.
The reality is that the demands on our officers are increasing. We are finding new sites now wanting firearms police officers to protect them that did not historically. We now have new assets like the UK's £3bn aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth, which requires a far more significant level of protection than was required historically at that location.
We don’t have the numbers. Our officers are having to work extra shifts, they’re working excessive overtime.
Somebody needs to sit down strategically and look at this holistically and say ‘what do we actually want from the Ministry of Defence Police’? and stop coming back to it, as a small section of the department and saying ‘We need some money off you’, because there’s no more money to give them.
Money means cops and any reductions means a real time reduction in armed officers.
We look forward to meeting soon with Tobias Ellwood – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence – to bring to his attention some of the major issues that are concerning our members.
If we have to make more savings, we are going to lose more police officers and realistically there will be some jobs that we can no longer fulfil.
That can’t be good for security, it can’t be good for the Ministry of Defence, and it’s definitely not the right way to go in the current climate in relation to the current terrorist threat.