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U.K. Plan to Combine Nuclear Police Agencies Faces Strong Opposition
The British government's consideration of combining the country's two law enforcement agencies with nuclear security responsibilities is facing criticism from the Defense Ministry's own police labor organization, the London Guardian reported on Monday (see GSN, May 31, 2011).
The Energy and Climate Change Department and the Defense Ministry have initiated a joint "scoping study" on the potential merging of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, which guards atomic energy facilities, and the Defense Ministry police force, which protects nuclear arms sites and other armed forces installations. Unlike other British police forces, the two nuclear law enforcement branches typically are bear arms..
The organization that represents Defense Ministry police officers says any merger would be disorderly, expensive and otherwise troublesome.
Combining the nuclear police forces would be "an extremely expensive exercise that would be unlikely to generate any savings in the short or medium term, and would distract from more realistic ways lf reducing the MOD's budget deficit," Defense Police Federation National Chairman Eamon Keating said.
Keating noted the Defense Ministry police have a broader law enforcement scope of operations than the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Authorities allotted to the ministry police but not the civil nuclear police include the launching of inquiries, crowd control and maritime duties. "This divergence in roles, training and responsibilities would make any kind of amalgamation rather messy," he said.
As the Civil Nuclear Constabulary is assigned to guard energy plants operated by the French firm EDF Energy, there "could be a conflict of interest with our responsibility to the MOD estate and the nuclear deterrent," Keating said.
The Defense Ministry police force is also considerably larger than the civil nuclear force, having close to 3,500 officers spread out at 86 military installations in the United Kingdom. The constabulary has close to 1,000 police force members guarding 17 atomic energy installations.
The Defense Ministry declined to comment on the potential merger.
An Energy and Climate Change Department spokesman said the two law enforcement agencies are already making moves on tighter cooperation. "Any potential conflicts of interest will be given due consideration as part of the scoping study, which is now ongoing and is intended to identify whether a merger would bring net benefits" (Rob Edwards, London Guardian, Feb. 13).
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