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Ministry of Defence Police

The Ministry of Defence Police, (MDP), is responsible for the policing of the United Kingdom's Defence community, from Culdrose in Cornwall to the Clyde in Scotland and beyond. The Force is a national, civil police service of over 3500 officers that is organised and accountable in the same way as other police forces in the United Kingdom.

The Force serve the families who live and work in the British defence community as members of the armed services, as civilian staff and contractors. The MDP provides them with the reassuring presence of police officers in the traditional British Police service uniform, each one of whom has full constabulary powers to uphold the law, and pursue those who break it.

In addition to the service's uniformed officers, the MDP has an effective and experience criminal Investigation Department (CID), including one of the largest Fraud Squads in the country. These detective officers are supported by civilian experts in information technology, forensic examination and accounting and financial analysis. The MDP has its own Special Branch, Intelligence and surveillance Unites which share information with other police forces and security agencies, and provide essential support services to both uniformed and CID officers.

The MDP can trace its origins back to 1686 when Samuel Pepys was Admiralty Secretary and set up policing for the Royal Dockyards. MPD officers still police all Her Majesty's Dockyards today, using the latest vessels in the country's largest marine police fleet to police waters within UK territorial limits. MDP's Marine officers hold dispositions from HM Customs and Excise which allow them to stop and search seagoing vessels for drugs and contraband.

Across the country, the MDP has over 300 dog handlers using different types of dogs for ammunition, explosives and drug searches, and the more familiar police dogs, many of whom displayed their intelligence and agility in the 1998 Royal Tournament Arena, and went on to feature in a succession of television programmes.

MDP's Operational Support Unit (OSU), based at the headquarters in Wethersfield, Essex, is the Force's mobile flexible reserve of around 50 officers. The OSU can deploy officers around the country at short notice to provide specialist police skills such as ammunition and explosive searches, specialised weapons officers, personal protection for VIP's, public order and nuclear, chemical and biological hazard (NBC) response teams. Officers in another specialist group, the SEG, provide police escorts for nuclear materials between Ministry of Defence establishments.

The MDP recognises the importance of education in crime prevention, so they have specially trained officers to liase with local communities over home security and personal safety and to reinforce their zero tolerance policy towards domestic violence. In local schools, our officers teach children about cycling and road safety. They also use the D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) initiative to inform youngsters about drugs and substance abuse, and to help create the confidence and self esteem necessary to resist peer pressure.

All MPD officers are fully firearms trained to existing Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) standards of professionalism.

Early Beginnings

Until late 1965, the Royal Navy, Army, and Royal Air Force were separate organisations controlled by the Board of Admiralty, the Army Board and the Air Ministry respectively each with its own Cabinet Minister. In that year, however, it was decided that the three services should be placed under the control of one Minister of State for Defence, and thus formed the present Ministry of Defence.

It was of course a natural outcome of this decision that where specialised services were being provided for the three services, these should, where possible, be amalgamated and accordingly on 1 October 1971, a Ministry of Defence Police Force was created by combining the Admiralty, Army Department and Air Force Constabularies.

Although from the beginning of time there was always an Army, this was until comparatively recent times, made up of separate bodies raised on a territorial basis and the formation of the Royal Air Force occurred only in the 20th Century. The Royal Navy, as a Department of central government, has existed since 1600 and as early as 1668 records show that the Admiralty was aware of the need for an organisation to prevent crime within its dockyards. During those early days, the Secretary for the Affairs of the Admiralty of England - one Samuel Pepys of Diary fame - delivered to the Special Commissioners of the Navy an instruction which included the following:-

"To enquire after and make use of all means for preventing the embezzlement of any of our Stores, and to that end to be frequent in visiting the Workmen at their departure out of our said Yards, keeping a Strict and Severe Eye upon the respective Porters of the same, and to the attendance at the Gates, and lastly to be as frequent as he may, and the distant of Places will admit, in his nightly rounds in and about each of our said Yards, for discovering and unfaithfulness or neglect that may be found in the Watch, charged with the safety of our Stores during that Season".

As a result of Pepy's instructions, a Force of "Porters, Rounders, Warders and Watchmen" was formed to guard the Naval Yards. Conditions of employment in those days were very different to modern times and this indicated by records which still exist, noting that the Head Porter of Devonport Dockyard had died "died" on 10 July 1718. A similar notation appeared after the names of his four successors, who between them served for a total of 141 years indicating that there were obviously no pensions in those days! But, what were the roles performed by the Force of Porters, Rounders, Warders and Watchmen?" The Porters were responsible for identifying visitors and escorting them to the appropriate heads of departments; the Rounders patrolled the Yard, or as their name implies, did the rounds; the Warders were responsible for the keys and backed up the Porters at the gates, and the Watchmen, who were employed only during the hours of darkness, guarded or watched important buildings or areas as their name also implies. The latter were part-timers, being dockyard employees who remained in the Yard, on a roster basis, every fourth night after carrying out their normal work and received an extra shilling for their pains. The Rounders appear, from the records available, to have been the senior branch of the Force as they kept an eye on the other three bodies and frequently reported their misdemeanours to the Commissioner in charge of the Dockyard.

Apart from this civilian force, there also existed a military force of Marines, comprising one subaltern, a number of NCO's and 36 Privates. Both the civil and military guards were closely linked and an indication of the economy practised in those days exists in the form of the Daily Orders Book. The front cover of this book indicated that by reading it in the straightforward manner one would find the order applicable to the Military Guard, but by turning the book upside down and starting at the back, the orders for the Civil Guard could be found. Both sets of orders were illuminating and often give examples of professional jealousy. The Order Book was in great demand by the Commissioners during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, a typical order being that issued on 27 January 1793, which read:

"A constant look out is to be kept at the gates to prevent admission of two strangers and if the discovery be made of two strangers about 6 feet high, one having a large purple scar upon the right side of his face, both of them speaking English, and appearing to be Englishmen - if within the Gates they are to be stopped and if without some trusty person sent to watch them, and in either case the Commissioner is to be immediately informed thereof".

And, the Commissioner had good cause to be concerned about these men as history informs us that two French agents were active in the area at that time.

There were constant changes in this Organisation during the 18th Century, caused mainly by the requirement for the Marine Guard to serve overseas, but in 1861 this Guard was finally abolished..."except at Chatham, Portsmouth, and such places as convicts were employed to carry out menial work.

An interesting sidelight on conditions in the Dockyards during this period is contained in the following instruction:

"Should any convict straggle from his work he is to be taken into custody and handed over to the Convict Superintendent...stating to such Officer at the time the nature and extent of the offence in order that he be dealt with accordingly".

As old regulations make it clear that convicts were to be employed on all dangerous tasks it can be assumed they 'straggled' whenever the opportunity arose, chancing the nature of the punishment they would receive if caught out. These convicts were employed in the Dockyards whilst awaiting transportation to the Colonies - mainly Australia - and lived in hulks, tied up alongside a jetty under the most vile conditions. It was also found necessary at this time to alert the Porters and Warders to the fact that women and children:

"coming into the Yard in the pretence of bringing meals to the Artizans often pilfer parts of the King's Stores and attempt to carry the same out of the Yard".

The Porters and Warders were strictly enjoined "to examine their buckets going out".

By comparison with the police arrangements then existing throughout the country, however, the Dockyard system was well organised, but of course its fatal weakness was that the Watchmen and Rounders were still being selected from Dockyard workers who performed these tasks in addition to their normal duties, and in 1822 the Commissioner at Portsmouth reported that:

"The night Rounders are men of the very best character selected from the Shipwrights of the Yard", and that "the Warders now at the Yard gates are the best we have ever had, and by their strict attention to this part of their duty have become very obnoxious to the people in general".

He also stated that:"...the watchmen draw lots for their posts after they come into the Yard, and that a certain number of Watchmen are searched promiscuously every morning by the Gate Warder in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Civil watch...and frequently by the Warden himself". He ended by saying: "...the men are very adverse to become Watchmen".

The Dockyard Police - 1834

While the above events were taking place in the Dockyards, Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel's carried his Metropolis Police Improvement bill through both Houses of Parliament and his recommendations culminated in the creation of the Metropolitan Police (the Peelers), in 1829.

On the evening of 29th September 1829, the first thousand of Peel's new police set out on patrol. They wore blue swallowtail coats, rabbit-skin top hats covered with leather, thick leather belts with 6-inch buckles which cut uncomfortably into their stomachs, and 4-inch deep leather stocks to make them keep their chins up. It was, according to one of them, a cross between the dress worn by the ex-Emperor Zoolooki of the Squeejee Islands and the policeman in a pantomime.

Although there was no hint of the Admiralty looking upon this method of protection with favour, on 20th May 1834 they disbanded the Porters, Rounders, Warders and Watchmen and introduced Police Forces - consisting of Special Constables for the Dockyards and smaller number of other Establishments.

In forming these Police Forces, the Admiralty had the benefit of the advice of a Superintendent of the newly formed Metropolitan Police whose greatest service was that he ensured they were formed in accordance with "the new and advanced theories and ideals of police functions and duties which had been conceived and formulated by the two Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police", and which "were quickly copied throughout the entire area of the Country and of the Empire".

Members of the new Dockyard Police Forces were sworn in under a form of oath, which gave them full police powers within the limits of the Dockyards, and, at a later stage, powers to act in their capacity as policemen, were given to them to operate under certain specific circumstances in connection with offences committed by employees and navel personnel within a radius of 5 miles outside the Yard.

The conditions of employment in the new Dockyard Police Forces were very good when compared with those of the majority of people during the 19th Century. For a start they received good wages, had the incentive of rewards if they caught a thief, and they could even take their families on overseas service (although "family" only included one child). Constables were paid 19 shillings per seven day week and were allowed half pay, up to a maximum of 28 days, when on sick leave. This latter condition was one, which did not apply to most employees in the country even 100 years later! On the 28th day they were required to be fit for duty, or, if unfit, were dismissed. But, if after dismissal they fully regained their health they were given preference for re-entry over all other applicants for employment with the Force. They were given a free issue of clothing, however, on leaving the Force they would have deductions made from their final pay for any items not returned, and, to quote the book of regulations:

"In any case the sum of 5/- [5 shillings] shall be retained from him, to pay for altering his clothes to fit his successor".

Reference to salaries paid to higher ranks is not made in the Dockyard Police Regulation Book but old Dockyard Standing Orders show that in 1845, the Lieutenant Director was in receipt of 250 per annum, plus fringe benefits in the for of 15/- per night subsistence allowance paid for duties which kept him out of the Yard all night, together with expenses incurred in boat or carriage hire. A similar order, dated 6th December 1858 gives details of a pay rise for Sergeants who received 1.4s.6d. for a 7-day week. No mention is made of Inspectors.

In addition to normal pay, certain rewards were payable and one such incentive was promulgated in 1859 being a payment of 2.10s.0d. to policemen who detected persons embezzling Government Stores after such persons had been found guilty in a summary court and similar payments up to 10 in cases where offenders were convicted on indictment. No doubt there cases where unscrupulous policemen made false accusations for financial gain, and this incentive has long disappeared.

Despite the relatively good conditions of service, things did not appear to have been going at all well with the Dockyard Police Forces, and eventually the Admiralty asked for an independent review of their efficiency. This task was allotted to Superintendent Mallelieu of the Metropolitan Police, and he set about this in a thorough manner. His final report made it quite clear that, in general, the Dockyard Police Forces were ill-trained and, in some instances, not devoting all their energy towards police duties.

One of the people Mallelieu consulted was the Chief Constable of Devonport Burgh Police, who, on examining his records stated:

"I find that during the past 5 years, 47 cases of stealing and having unlawful possession of Government Stores have taken place, from which number, 28 were detected by the Burgh Police".

This meant that during the 5-year period, the Dockyard Police had only made 19 detections. The Chief constable added further fuel to the fire by saying he believed that some of the men [Dockyard Police] engaged in questionable pursuits when off duty, and he ended with a final thrust: "I have reason to believe that some are proprietors of beer shops, though not in their own names".

As a consequence of Mallelieu's report and despite such recommendations as training the forces in Metropolitan lines, increasing pay and introducing a system whereby men frequently transferred from one establishment to another to avoid undue familiarity with employees, many of whom were related to policemen of local origin, it was finally decided that the best answer was to disband the Dockyard forces and introduce the Metropolitan Police into the Dockyards. So, after only 26 years, the Dockyard Police Forces ceased to exist and the Admiralty Establishments were, for the next 75 years, policed by the Metropolitan Police. In fact, the Metropolitan Police already had the experience of Dockyard work, having taken over the responsibility for the two yards at Deptford and W0oolwich - which were both already within the Metropolitan District in 1841, but until 1858 they had been reluctant to accept any commitment outside the Metropolitan area.

On this occasion, however, the Metropolitan Commissioner - Sir Richard Mayne KCB - raise no objection, merely stating that the proposals could be carried out "by an adequate addition to his Force and such alteration to the Law as found necessary". This latter comment was necessary so that authority might be given for the Metropolitan Police to operate outside both their own Metropolitan District and the Naval Establishments for which they were responsible.

One of Superintendent Mallelieu's major recommendations was that the various establishments should "be grouped together for police purposes". Very much later, the Admiralty Constabulary (1943) was so organised - on a Group basis - as was the present MOD Police during the 70's, and therefore a direct link existed between Supt Mallelieu, Sir Robert Mayne, the Metropolitan Police and the MOD Police. Incidentally, Sir Richard Mayne is even now regarded as probably the greatest police figure Great Britain has ever known.

The Metropolitan Police

Following the necessary Act of Parliament in 1860, the Metropolitan Police took over the policing of Portsmouth and Devonport Dockyards and the smaller establishments in the same vicinities and the remaining Naval Establishments were quickly taken over. There were 128 members of the Metropolitan Police employed at Deptford and Woolwich and approximately 400 in the other Admiralty Establishments. Superintendent Mallelieu was placed in overall charge with a rank immediately below that of the Assistant Commissioners. The Act of Parliament increased the geographical area of their powers to a radius of 15 miles outside each establishment for which they were responsible, with the proviso that these powers were to exercised only in respect of the property of the Crown or persons subject to Naval or Military discipline. It also, for the first time, their policing of certain Army Establishments. Another Act of Parliament - The Admiralty Powers Act - followed in 1865, which gave considerable assistance to the police in that it made the Admiralty Superintendent of each Yard a magistrate - thus giving him the authority to hear cases brought before him by the Metropolitan Police. Cells were built adjacent to the main police offices, and offenders were usually kept in them overnight after being charged, and brought before the Admiral the next day. The Admiral could, if he found them guilty, impose a fine or a term of imprisonment.

Records indicate at this time that business was brisk. One local Regulation states:

"Prisoners sentenced to imprisonment shall be taken under escort by a Constable, who will catch the 10.40 a.m. train from Plymouth to Portsmouth, taking care to avoid narrow thorough-fares where rescues may be attempted. On arrival at Portsmouth Dockyard, he will place the prisoner(s) in the custody of the Superintendent who will arrange a further escort to take the prisoner(s) to Lewis Prison".

So it would appear that the majority of persons convicted were required to make the long journey to Sussex, to serve out their terms of penal servitude.

As Magistrates, the various Admirals were also able to issue Search Warrants, which again made life much easier for the police. Many people even now are ignorant of the fact that the present day Force has certain powers outside the Establishment and it is of interest to note a case when a Sergeant Ford entered a public house on 7 December 1876 in search of deserters and others. Sergeant Ford did not have a Warrant and the publican refused to co-operate. The publican was subsequently convicted of unlawfully resisting a police officer, but on appeal, the Queen's Bench Division quashed the conviction on the grounds that the sergeant had exceeded his authority in not possessing a Warrant. It was, however, made clear that had he possessed a Warrant he would have been acting lawfully outside the Dockyard.

The Metropolitan Police carried on many of the traditions inherited from the Dockyard Police and the Watchmen before them. They continued to serve in the dual role of policemen and firemen; they carried Deputations from HM Customs and Excise to assist in the prevention of smuggling and in the early days, they were still responsible for seeing that convicts employed in the Yard did not loiter or attempt to evade work.

The Metropolitan Police also formed a Water Police Branch, and at Devonport Dockyard the whole of that branch lived on an old hulk, which had at one time been commissioned as 'HMS Leda'. There was an inspector in charge who was allocated what had been the Captain's quarters and the remainder of the men lived in the rest of ship's accommodation. If they were married, their families also lived in this accommodation with them. The main difficulty appeared to be that of cooking facilities, as there was only one galley, which had to be allocated in strict rotation.

Originally, the men were required to row one complete patrol of the harbour during each shift, but as time went on they managed to obtain the use of steam pinnaces or large coal-burning vessels the size of tugs. Their duties must have been arduous as their powers covered the whole of the waters, which comprised the Port of Plymouth, and extended as far as the tidal waters flowed. In some places, the tide flows up river for twenty miles, so in the days when they used boats propelled by oars an emergency call to distant parts, especially against the tide, would have fully tested the endurance of all concerned. The Metropolitan Police carried out their duties in a "most satisfactory manner" and laid the foundations for a well-organised police system based on universally accepted police principals. Their attitude to their task might be summed up as "efficiency, appropriate compliance, unfailing assistance, and courteous independence".

The Royal Marine Police - 1922

After the First World War, however, there was a general call for economy throughout the country which was in a state of economic depression and furthermore the Metropolitan Force were under very great pressure in the in the London area from the effects of the 1926 General Strike. In June 1922, the Geddes Committee on National Expenditure recommended the withdrawal from the dockyards of the Metropolitan Police and the Admiralty at that time decided to institute a force to be known as the Royal Marine Police to replace the previous agency.

The Royal Marine Police was created by an Order in Council and came into being on 13 October 1922. It was administered by the Adjutant General Royal Marines and attached for records, pay, clothing and discipline to the three Royal Marine Divisions at Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth (Devonport).

All the members were sworn in as Special Constables under the Special Constables Act 1923, but were, as the name implies, originally serving and retired members of the Royal Corps of Royal Marines and all of them were subject to military law under the provisions of the Army Act. Pensioners from the Royal Navy were subsequently and reluctantly accepted. A Chief Constable was appointed in 1932 but the replacement of the Metropolitan Police was not completed until 1934 due in part to the Admiralty's desire to proceed cautiously.

Initially, members of this new Force were recruited as Constables in the main and ex-officers as Chief Inspector and above. This method created a semi-military Force as the lower ranks still served under men who had commanded them in the RM or RN. They were subject to Military Law as has already been stated and furthermore, during their first two years service they were required to purchase their discharge if they wish to leave the Force. During the first year's service the discharge fee was 20, and the second year, 10.

The Royal Marine Police had little time to establish themselves before the Second World War of 1939 was upon them.. The restrictive practice of recruiting only RN and RM pensioners showed its weakness with the drying up of the source of men who expected to retire from the armed forces being retained for the duration of the War. To counter this the rules were amended to permit ex-servicemen from any branch of the armed forces to enlist in a new force known as the Royal Marine Police Special Reserve. This still failed to achieve its aim and a third force, the Admiralty Civil Police was formed. Anyone, regardless of former military service, could join. In fact, many men who did join that Force were allowed to do so as alternative to joining the armed services.

Consequently, at the end of the War in 1945, the Admiralty found itself with three Police Forces, each with different conditions of service and discipline, but all under the same Chief Constable. This situation was obviously undesirable and inefficient, so in October 1949, the three forces were disbanded and the Admiralty Constabulary was formed.

The Admiralty Constabulary - 1949

At the time of its formation the Constabulary comprised some 3,500 men policing 150 separate establishments throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Training on the Royal Marine Police and its associated Forces had been limited to a 3-week course in one of the main Dockyards where a self-taught instructor would endeavour to initiate recruits after reading various Acts of Parliament and books of law. Whether this system was efficient or not, the Force survived and managed to get good results. With the foundation of the Admiralty Constabulary, however, the previous unreliable training methods were recognised and a Training School was inaugurated. Volunteers were called for to fill posts as Instructors and successful applicants were sent on 6-month courses of instruction at various local police colleges to ensure they were properly fitted for the task. As an additional safeguard, it was decided that the Commandant of the Training School should be an ex-officer from a local police force familiar with instructional techniques and able to impart extra knowledge through having already completed one police career.

The first Commandant was soon appointed and almost simultaneously a number of other senior administrative posts in both uniform and criminal investigation branches were similarly filled. The old practice of filling such posts with retired officers of the armed forces ceased and the new method helped to forge closer links with other police forces throughout the country.

An assurance was however given that as the Force progressed, vacancies at all levels would be open to serving members. Of course many members of the Admiralty Constabulary had previously served with one of the old forces and simply transferred when they were disbanded. This meant that such men still lacked training but this defect was soon put right as all were required to undergo a 6-week period at the new School, and retention in the Force depended upon examination results.

Although this came as a shock to many, very few failed and all felt the benefits of receiving expert training. In fact, training never ceased after that and many officers were soon to be sent to Police Colleges and Training Centres throughout the UK on lengthy courses and this system is still observed today.

The usefulness of training in modern police methods soon increased efficiency and this in turn resulted in requests for more up-to-date equipment. Mobile unites were soon established, the vehicles were equipped with radios and personal "walkie-talkie" sets soon followed. The Water Police were given modern boats and all ranks soon discovered that the job was far more interesting as they obtained the equipment to put their newfound knowledge into effect.

The War Office...Army Department

So far is known, the Army used serving soldiers to guard their establishments in the early days and as the employment of civilians was minimal there was little call for a Police Force as such except in places such the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. Consequently, the first records of the police in this department appear in 1860 when the Metropolitan Police were called upon to police the Royal Arsenal. This was a straightforward arrangement as Woolwich is in the London Area. In 1925, however, it was found necessary for the Army to have police of its own and a force was formed under the auspices of that Department well known to readers of modern fiction as M15. This was soon followed by the inauguration of a War Department Constabulary. This force derived its authority from the various Acts of Parliament, notably the Metropolitan Police Act 1860, which states:

"...may be authorised and specially sworn to execute the office of constable within all or any of Her Majesty's Dockyards, victualling yards, steam factory yards and in the principal stations of the War department in England and Wales and within 75 miles of such yards or station...with regard to property of the Crown or of persons subject to Naval, Marine or Military Discipline".

This Act was later expanded to cover Scotland.

The Constabulary was responsible for the policing of some 60 stations throughout the UK for the War Office plus a number of Ministry of Aviation Establishments and was also employed on certain other duties in London. It is of interest to note that this Force was also responsible for the security of the Royal Mint. The initial strength of the Force was 2,00, but this was later reduced by the transfer of some 300 men to the newly formed Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary, which took over the responsibility of Atomic Stations from the War Department Constabulary.

Applicants for the Force were required to be Sergeants or above from the Army, or Corporals from the Royal Military Police. They were required to be of exemplary character, if possible with possession of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and with a 22-year pension. They were given a 4-week training course before joining a Station and were on 3-months' probation at the end of which they were required to pass an examination. Promotion to Superintendent was from the ranks of the Force.

Where it was possible to recruit Regular Constables, a small number of Auxiliary Police Constables, with lower qualifications on entry, were employed.

The Force was renamed "Army Department Constabulary" in 1964, when the War Office became the Army Department.

The Air Ministry...Air Force Department

Police protection at civilian manned stations of the former Air Ministry, which was of course a 20th century phenomenon, was originally provided by the Metropolitan Police and County Constabularies. For a while, as an economy measure, warders who had no police powers manned some establishments, but the Home Office Forces remained at stores depots, where warders were considered to be inadequate, until about 1925. The passing of the Special Constables' Act 11923, enabled these warders to be sworn in as Special Constables and the regular police were then gradually withdrawn and replaced by warders or, as they were later styled, Air Ministry Constables. During the war of 1939-45, the Air Ministry Constabulary increased to a peak strength of 3,530, but since then, as a result of reductions in the RAF itself, the relinquishing by the Air Ministry of control over civil airports, and by the introduction of more economical methods of policing, their numbers decreased to some 1,155 men. Originally the warders and later the Constabulary detachments were under the direct control of the Commanding Officer of the Unit at which they served. In 1942, however, a superintendent was appointed to RAF Maintenance Command, which was the main user of the Constabulary, to advise on police matters. Later in the same year, the Superintendent was moved to the Air Ministry and the beginnings were made to centralise control. In 1945, a Chief Constable was appointed and he assumed the day-to-day running of the Force.

On the reorganisation of the Air Ministry in 1964, when it became the Air Force Department, the Force was also re-named as the Air Force Department Constabulary.

Ministry Of Defence Police...1971

The re-naming of the Army and Air Force Department from the War Office and Air Ministry took place as the result of a decision to combine these departments, together with the Admiralty (known now as the Navy Department) under the control of a unified Ministry of Defence in 1965. This was a natural outcome of the experience gained in the Second World War of 1939-45, when the need for combined operations became obvious and more than just a liaison between the three armed forces was essential.

Amalgamation of the three Police Forces followed in October 1971 as an inevitable process in the evolution of the Police and Ministry of Defence Establishments.

Female Police Officers

Although it seems strange, there were no female police officers in the MDP until 1974. In that year, two sergeants were transferred into the MDP, one from Strathclyde Police, and the other from the British Airports Police. The first four female recruits started their training on Recruit Course 1/75. This caused some problems as there were no shirts for them, however, the local fire station in Redhill came to the rescue and supplied shirts for them. Skirts and tunics were made to measure in London as there was no stock held. They were issued with truncheons, unfortunately they had no pockets to put them in! At this time, trousers were not issued to female officers and rent allowance was only paid at half rate. As can be seen, equality was not in vogue at the time.

Ministry Of Defence Police Act - 1987

Owing to the fact that the MDP derived its powers from a growing number of Acts and Regulations, it was recognised that there was a need for one specific piece of legislation to cover the MDP and its unique role in the policing of the Defence estate.

As a result, in 1987, the Force was recognised by Parliament as a distinct Force, which resulted in an Act of Parliament, the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987. This drew many of the powers from the old Acts and Regulations under the umbrella of one piece of legislation, making them clearer to understand and work from.

All officers within the MDP are attested as Constables as laid down within Section 1 (2) of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987, and are granted the "powers and privileges of Constables" in any place in the UK within their jurisdiction.

Agency Status - 1966

On 1 April 1996, the Ministry of Defence Police became a Defence Agency. This was a landmark in the MDP's history, as it was the first Force in the British Police Service to become an Agency.

The MDP was formally launched as an Agency on 24 April 1966 by the Hon. Nicholas Soames, Minister of State of the Armed Forces.

The Agency operates under the Secretary of State for Defence, who has the ultimate responsibility for determining the size, policy and resources of the Force. These responsibilities are delegated to the 2nd Permanent Under Secretary of State who is also Chairman of the MoD Police Committee.

The Chief Constable has the exclusive statutory authority for the professional direction and control of all MDP officers, and also has direct access to the Secretary of State for Defence, to whom he is directly responsible. Additionally, the Chief Constable is responsible and accountable to Parliament for the propriety and regularity of the Agency's expenditure in compliance with Treasury and departmental rules.

The Present Force

The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) is still the MoD's own dedicated Police Force with all of the officers holding full constabulary powers. It is responsible for policing MoD establishments in the United Kingdom, providing police services for military forces or other Governments based in the UK, and for policing other Government Departments, including the Royal Mint.

In addition to their constabulary powers, certain officers of the Force hold a 'Deputation' issued by the Customs and Excise department giving them the same powers as an officer of H.M. Customs & Excise.

During their specialised policing role, the MDP, in common with all other police forces, is responsible for the protection of life, prevention of crime and, detection and arrest of offenders if crime is committed. This may involve officers of the Force investigating offences on HM ships at sea, as the Royal Navy has no Service Police Branch.

One of the major areas that MDP officers are involved in is the detection and investigation of fraud and the Fraud Squad, based at MDP HQ, have investigated, very successfully, major fraud cases.

Close links have been established with colleagues in the Home Department police services and the Service Police. Many officers attend training course at Home department training centres and even some in America with the CIA. Some inspecting grades, (Instructors/Ch. Inspectors), also attend Service Colleges such RNC Greenwich and RAF Henlow as part of their development training and to further their understanding of the requirements of the customers who employ the Force.

The MDP is under the leadership of the Chief Constable who is independent from political and Departmental influence in the operational policing role. The Headquarters, Training Centre, and specialised units are all located at MDP Wetherby, which was previously an RAF station. This is the MDP's own establishment situated in Essex and is not shared with any other MoD department leaving great scope for all training needs of such a multifaceted Force.

As can be seen, the MDP have progressed a long way from the original Force of 'Porters, Rounders, Warders and Watchmen', and the Forces is continuing to evolve as the needs of the Defence estate changes. The Ministry of Defence Police is truly an historical Force.

Re-published by kind permission of The Criminology Research Institute
2003 The New Criminologist; www.thecriminologist.com










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