Chief Constable seeks support for deployment of private security firms

According to BBC NI Home Affairs correspondent Vincent Kearney, at Thursday’s meeting of the NI Policing Board the Chief Constable Matt Baggot will seek endorsement of a plan to use private security firms to replace the estimated 400 PSNI officers currently providing protection for politicians, judges and other potential terrorist targets, and guarding police stations.

From the BBC report

That backing is essential because the move would require new legislation, and that will only happen if there’s cross-party support within the assembly.

Basil McCrea, the Ulster Unionist chairman of the board’s human rights committee, said mechanisms would have to be put in place to regulate the work of the private firms, but he is firmly behind the idea.

“This is the right thing to do,” he said.

“The chief constable has made his position clear and it’s driven by the need to be cost effective.

“Clearly we need to ensure that the work is properly regulated, but we don’t need fully warranted police officers to do this kind of work, they should be out on the streets.

“On that basis we will be supporting him.”

In the accompanying video reports, Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey repeatedly refers to his party’s desire for an un-armed police service.  A desire which fails to take into account the level of threat… and unfulfilled expectations.  From the BBC report

Policing Board member Alex Maskey said the party had fundamental concerns.

He said: “We have made the chief constable aware of our concerns.”

“Even if these people are going to be guarding stations and protecting individuals, they are going to be inter-acting with the community and we want to know how they are going to be held to account for their actions.

“At least a police officer can be held to account for his behaviour by the Policing Board, and that is a very important element in building public confidence in policing.

“We will listen to what the chief constable has to say, but in terms of getting our support for this, he has a long way to go.”

There are similarities with Afghanistan, and Iraq, but not necessarily the ones highlighted by the BBC reports…

And are Sinn Féin still threatening to withdraw their co-operation with the police?

Update According to another BBC report

On Thursday, Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey said that for the chief constable to air the matter in the public part of the meeting was “an abuse of process” and that it should have been dealt with in private session.

Adds  By a “majority view”, the Policing Board have rejected the proposal.

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  • Here are some accumulated statistics which show the continuing significant deficit in constables and the inclusion of students in the regular officer total.

  • Izzy

    I don’t know what planet Matt Baggott is on, since he doesn’t seem to know that almost all police stations in N Ireland are already guarded by private security officers. This has been the case for years now, it’s not something new. These security guards are unarmed civilians and of course are paid a lot less than policemen, even though they are obviously doing a dangerous job. It’s true that in a few places there are policemen doing security but most of these are reservists.

  • DC

    This is going to be interesting – it makes sense to a degree, but if Sinn Fein refuse it I guess they will have to find the money to plug the 400 officers needed elsewhere. I think the personal drivers are a runner maybe but police stations might need some debate. (I wish they would just open up recruitment to locals and others interested in it to do the staffing of the police station thing – perhaps part-time? and to be trained both in arms handling and of course human rights!)

    Besides, frankly, given the 37 days public assembly bill mess, the skills required to frame this sort of legislation is quite seriously well beyond the gift of this existing Assembly and its MLAs.

    It may well have to get knocked into Westminster so that the legislative draught-persons and MPs there can knock it into shape – or perhaps outsourced to consultants or something. (You heard it here first!)

  • aquifer

    What can Sinn Fein say when they have had their own non-police armed bodyguards. And their ignorance of legal niceties could be a good deterrent for assassins.

    But please no subscribers to Soldier of Fortune magazine or Blackwater graduates from IRAQ.

  • Cynic

    This seems odd. Security at Police stations is already privatised and has been for years. The only question is why are PSNI paying so much more on contracts than anyone else?

  • billy

    The reason I guess for the contracts is that they can reduce the wage bill and get away with not paying a pension as they are not direct employees to the psni. Armed civilian security which is being proposed do not come under the remit of the police ombusman… they I would suspect would have to be given the status of a special constable and that would have to legislated for . If they are employed would that then allow them to ask for similiar conditions and employment rights regarding equal pay , pensions etc. A similiar organization already operating in NI are the NIGS ( northern ireland guard service) which conduct armed security at military bases and are given the status of sworn special constables which have no authority outside the bases.They are paid a pension and are direct employees to the military although they as special constables I believe do not fall under the ombusmans remit as military bases are subject to military law not civil.The main reason for against proposals of this nature are that once a civilian groups are armed it would not be difficult for private security firms insisting to be armed in mainland uk to protect their clients. Control of armed security firms in these circumstances would be somewhat problematic . Further to this if an incident occurs outside a police station what powers do these civilians have … will they have a power to arrest or detain a person for a certain period of time as with the army in the past . Some intelligent solictor is going to have field day I think. No doubt the rules will be easily bent to serve a purpose. I wonder will the 50 / 50 recruitment be used in any subsequent campaign as we have an abundance of individuals trained in firearms in this small country whether it be legal or illegally gained .

  • RJ

    Is this Like the MOD Bases then i think if theres going to be Guards it should be Local Boys from both Communities
    Armed with Semi-Automatics and then Unarmed the Police
    and arm them with Battons like the Police in the South.
    just one problem with this Its coming from an English Man [the Head Constable ill listen and Cheer if it Comes from Sinn Fein
    or the DUP or the Assembly] now the Cheif Constable can going and get back in his English Wee Box and Sort out his Own Business.

  • I just wonder will this be jobs for the ex-boys ??

    Will the Former Assistant Chief Constables son who now owns a security company be given any of the lucrative contracts ?

  • Pete Baker

    Update According to another BBC report

    On Thursday, Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey said that for the chief constable to air the matter in the public part of the meeting was “an abuse of process” and that it should have been dealt with in private session.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    One of the main targets for the dissers is the police themselves – so it does not really make sense to have police guarding politicans – therby increasing the risk to both.

    Provided they are accountable then the idea sounds reasonable though it will be of some propaganda value to the dissers.

    SF should suggest extending the scheme to whose presence is clearly counter productive.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    SF should suggest extending the scheme to MI5 whose presence is clearly counter productive.

  • wj

    Who’s favourite to get the contract – Xe (formerly Blackwater Security) or IRMS? Why not go the whole hog and call them Baggott’s Special Constabulary which will be shortened to ……. I suppose that’s too obvious!!

  • Well it’s been rejected but i couldn’t but help think of the shooting at Massareene when the guard there didn’t return fire and he was armed

  • Cynic

    …and over whom they have absolutely no control …………………..although perhaps the reverse cannot be said.

  • Cynic

    ” a majority view” rejected it. Let me guess what the split was!

  • There was only one vote in it according to radio ulster

  • DC

    It’s a pity recruitment to PSNI weren’t more open and flexible. Perhaps then new grades beneath constable could be created to cover the specific posts the Chief Constable says he needs (outsourced) – posts like site-based security or driving grades. If constables etc are too experienced and skilled-up and costly other grades should be created.

    Sadly recruitment is so hotly contested that the private sector is now popping up out the other end as a more attractive option because it seems this way things can be done easier while being just as effective as using the formal PSNI staffing model.

    Running with the heavily regulated (50:50) and centralised recruitment process seems like a self-defeating policy to me. In many ways it’s the same as the Civil Service – it still uses terms like Staff Officer whenever what a department might actually need is a service manager with both marketing and accountancy skills.

    If the PSNI need gate security then recruit and train them as such and pay staff less for having heavily trimmed-back responsibilities.

  • Cynic

    ” Perhaps then new grades beneath constable could be created to cover the specific posts”

    ….we could call them Reserve Constables …whoops

    This is also interesting from another standpoint. SF have bitterly criticised the idea of armed private security guards. Will they now give up theirs? Indeed, do these guards have

    1 firearms licences from PSNI?
    2 licences from the Security Industry Authority?

  • billy

    Interesting figures between student officers and 146 non operational ftr who are in retraining . From previous reports a further 400- 600 regulars are going through patton in the next two years so i would expect these totals will change quite significantly with a freeze to recruitment.

  • billy

    Wise up cynic ( in a nice way) SF doing something legal like getting SIA licence …. now that would pushing the boat out . They would try a few internet sites first , £30 quid can buy you licence for anthing you want nowdays!!!! I heard the other day £95 smackers will get you psni warrant card .. photograph included…. only joking in case I get visit from the boys.