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Plans for civilian guards to protect terrorist targets

By Claire Weir

Chief Constable Matt Baggott will today unveil plans to recruit private security firms and civilian guards to protect terrorist targets and police stations across Northern Ireland.

The PSNI chief is expected to put the proposals before the Policing Board this afternoon.

He will claim that using civilian guards will free up over 400 officers currently protecting public figures like judges and politicians, allowing them to return to frontline policing.

Unionist board members are expected to support the new proposals.

However, nationalist representatives on the body will express concern about accountability and the background of those employed by such companies.

Policing Board member Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein said his party had fundamental concerns which have been voiced to the chief constable.

He added that Mr Baggott had a “long way to go” to secure his support of the scheme.

But Policing Board Member and Democratic Unionist MLA Jimmy Spratt, who is a former chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, says he thinks such a proposal is “brilliant”.

“Civilian guards are already employed by police services as support in other areas and the precedent has already been set at military bases all over the world,” he said.

“It could be more cost-effective too, and I predict that for the job one police officer does right now now we could have at least two armed civilian guards, freeing up lots of police personnel and saving money.

“All of these people would essentially be employed by the PSNI and working for them. It is something the Chief Constable has been floating with the board for a while and I think it is a brilliant idea.

“All these civilian employees would have to undergo background checks the same as any other PSNI employee and be fully trained as bodyguards and security guards so I don’t see any problems at all.”

Hundreds of former police officers and soldiers from Northern Ireland have been employed by private security firms in Iraq and Afghanistan, protecting individuals and buildings believed to be at risk of terrorist attack, and the new plans could soon be bringing them back home.

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