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CALL TO ARMS; Chief Constable told to let mutual aid officers from across the UK carry weapons in Ulster.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE BY MAURICE FITZMAURICE

MATT Baggott is facing demands to arm British police officers sent to Northern Ireland.

Police federation chiefs from across the water have written to the Chief Constable asking why their members should face the same danger as Northern Ireland officers but without weapons.

The Home Office in Britain is currently reviewing the mutual aid scheme, which was used to send cops to help tackle disorder linked with the G8, flags and parades' disputes..

The review, Police Federation members believe, shows the Government expects officers will again be called upon to reinforce under-pressure PSNI personnel if trouble starts. But speaking to the Mirror, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation Brian Docherty said dwindling police resources in Britain could mean chief constables are not always able to send the numbers needed to help their PSNI colleagues.

The warning comes as the Police Federation in Northern Ireland has been calling for an extra 1,000 officers because the PSNI is "grossly underresourced".

Mr Docherty said around 70 mutual aid officers came home injured after one weekend of trouble during the marching season, a situation he said is "unsustainable".

He added: "The big problem in relation to Northern Ireland is police numbers and there is absolutely no doubt about that.

"With the demise of the organisation and the way it's being reduced year on year and with retirements etc coming through, that situation is not going to improve in the short term."

Asked if the circumstances could arise where British forces may not be able to provide all the officers requested by the PSNI, Mr Docherty said "that's something you've got to be realistic about and say that when push comes to shove, if there's no officers left who are fully trained you have to consider the safety aspect of that".

've got to be realistic at when push if there's ho are have he of He added only a limited pool of officers, who are public order trained, can be called on for Northern Ireland duties. y f er e or nd Mr Docherty would not be drawn on would n APPEAL PSNI Chief the content of the letter sent to Mr Baggott by federation chiefs outlining concerns including the fact British officers do have guns, but said that "routinely officers in Northern Ireland are armed for the threats that they face both on and off duty but our boys and girls going across there aren't".

He added: "So there is going to have to be some consideration given to the risk assessment the officers there face on a day to day basis and if you have officers across there from the mainland who are not routinely armed, it's something that will have to be considered." One PSNI source said officers drafted in for the G8 were working in a "bubble" but those at parades or flag trouble were "facing an entirely different situation".

" but those at parades were "facin different In of h PSastnBN R p dep made Scottisp Constable Matt Baggott In an indication of how reliant the PSNI is on mutual aid officers, the source said that during one night on East Belfast's Lower Newtownards Road 10 of 13 police units deployed were made up of English, Scottish and Welsh personnel.

CAPTION(S):

APPEAL PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott

STRUGGLE TO COPE Police during a riot over the Twelfth
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 4, 2013
Words:564
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