Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

G8 policing: It's nice work if you can get it...

It was the most peaceful G8 in history, but the officers who policed it are set to pocket £2,000 for their week's efforts

Police on patrol at Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen
Police on patrol at Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen
Police watch G8 protesters
Police watch G8 protesters
PSNI officers alongside officers from police forces around the UK stand guard in Enniskillen
PSNI officers alongside officers from police forces around the UK stand guard in Enniskillen

Despite the most peaceful G8 summit in history, police officers who worked round-the-clock are set to pocket substantial pay packets in the region of £2,000 for a week's work.

The G8 summit, which took place at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen earlier this week, coincided with the biggest security operation to take place in Northern Ireland.

Fears of large-scale disorder, coupled with the threat of attacks by dissidents, did not materialise and the G8 summit has been hailed as an outstanding success, with just two G8-related arrests made.

This compared to 700 arrests when the G8 was last held in the UK back in 2005.

Due to the lack of trouble and jovial relations between police and protesters, a large number of the 8,000 officers tasked to maintain the peace found themselves surplus to requirements.

However, with officers working double shifts on special overtime rates, many are set to receive more than £2,000 for a week's work.

"Personally I did seven days in a row, 16 hours each day and I know plenty others did too," one PSNI constable told the Belfast Telegraph.

"After the flag protests we were prepared for the same, given the number of protesters expected, but in the end it was hard putting some days in. Some of my colleagues have already booked their holidays on the back of what we will be receiving. I've one mate who is heading to the Maldives."

Another officer added: "Yes, as it turned out there wasn't a whole lot to do in the end, but given the widespread trouble we saw on the news from other G8 events I think it was right not to take any chances."

The G8 cost £50m-plus to police and provide security for, most which will be covered by the UK Treasury. Visiting governments also had their own security agents.

Months of planning were undertaken to prepare for the summit.

Some 3,600 police officers were drafted in from other areas of the UK.

Policing Board member Jonathan Craig felt police should be congratulated for their handling of the summit and protests.

"The security response to the G8 summit here followed previous experience of the G8 being held in the UK," he said.

"If you look back at what happened at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005 – you had mass protests, mass arrests, almost full-scale riots around the protesting against the G8 summit."

He added: "Those who are complaining about the level of the security response, what would they be complaining about if the PSNI got this completely wrong, if they had played it too low-key and some major security incident had occurred when the eyes of the world were on Northern Ireland?"

On Wednesday Chief Constable Matt Baggott played down claims the £50m policing operation had been excessive.

"I wouldn't do anything differently if we could start again," he insisted.

"I would plan for the same assumptions, for the same outcomes, and I am delighted with where we are."

BACKGROUND

The G8 summit in Enniskillen has been hailed as a remarkable success story in terms of policing and security. The gathering of world leaders has seen violent clashes in recent years. Ahead of the G8 meeting here, David Cameron admitted the idea of staging the summit in Northern Ireland would have been inconceivable just 10 years ago. The cost of the police operation, over £50m, was defended by Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

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