Old vehicles 'put police at risk'
Ancient police Land Rovers should be replaced before officers' lives are put at risk, an independent expert said.
Many are unfit for purpose and beyond repair, independent reviewer Robert Whalley added. Some are 14 years old. Although 60 new vehicles were recently purchased, there is a serious risk during riots like in Ardoyne last summer, his report added.
"The ballistic threat to police officers from gunmen using the cover of public disorder is a real issue," he said.
"Nor is it sensible to depend on unreliable vehicles which, as shown in the Ardoyne last year, can put officers' lives at risk and lead to loss of tactical control to the benefit only of those seeking to exploit disorder."
He said a new fleet of Land Rovers may be seen by many as evidence of a tougher security strategy and carry a potentially negative message. He said police have been assessing parades this year as well as the reaction to the August riots in England.
"Part of this involves replacement of vehicles in the Land Rover fleet, many of which are ageing, now unfit for purpose and beyond repair," the reviewer added.
"Since it would be extremely unwise to contemplate the use of military vehicles to control public order situations, I come to the conclusion, with some reluctance, that it is right to replace the ancient Land Rovers."
DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said some of the vehicles were 14 years old. He said: "The replacement programme has been accelerated because there are a number of them at the end of their serviceable life. They are breaking down, maintenance costs are through the roof."
A PSNI spokeswoman said the force had recently purchased 60 new armoured Land Rovers.
"This currently gives us a fleet of 385 armoured Land Rovers and we have plans to purchase a further 120 Land Rovers within the next year. As we replace older Land Rovers we will be able to reduce the overall number retained as less resilience will be required. Consequently, the overall number will reduce to 350."