Ministry of Defence Police

Ministry of Defence Police
Abbreviation MDP

Motto Protecting the UK's Defence capability
Agency overview
Formed 1971
Annual budget £180 million[1][2]
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
National agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
United Kingdom
Legal jurisdiction MDP jurisdiction
Constituting instrument Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters Wethersfield
Constables 2,600[3]
Agency executive Alf Hitchcock[4], Chief Constable
Divisions 2
Stations 55

The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) is a civilian police force which is part of the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence. The MDP are not Military Police and should not be confused with the Royal Military Police or any other Service Police organisation. The MDP has an established strength of 2,700 police officers, based at numerous defence locations across the United Kingdom.

The force was originally formed in 1971 by the merger of three separate service constabularies: the Air Force Department Constabulary, the Army Department Constabulary, and the Admiralty Constabulary. The force, which consists of two divisions, is headquartered at MDP Wethersfield, Essex.

Although superficially similar to other UK police forces, the MDP is significantly different in role, function and accountability. The MDP's primary responsibilities are to provide armed security and to counter terrorism, as well as uniformed policing and investigative services to Ministry of Defence property, personnel, and installations throughout the United Kingdom. MDP officers are attested as constables under the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987. All MDP officers are trained to use firearms and 90% of those on duty are armed at any given time.

The force has a number of specialised departments and also provides officers for international policing secondments; including the active policing of conflict areas overseas and training of resident police forces in these areas. These overseas missions are carried out under the mandates of the United Nations, NATO, or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The MDP is currently undergoing significant restructuring as part of the coalition government's post 2010 austerity measures, and the Strategic Defence and Security Review. Its budget was cut from £360 million to £180 million and it is to lose 20% of its manpower and up to 50% of its stations by 2016.[1] The new, smaller force will concentrate on high end tasks such as nuclear weapons security and mobile armed policing of the defence estate.[5]


The Ministry of Defence Police was formed in 1971 by the merger of three civil constabularies, the Air Force Department Constabulary (previously under the control of the Air Ministry), the Army Department Constabulary (previously under the control of the War Office), and the Admiralty Constabulary (previously under the control of the Admiralty).[6]

These earlier constabularies were formed as a result of the Special Constables Act 1923, although their histories can be traced back much further as watchmen.[6] Their powers came from different legislative sources. In 1984, the House of Commons Defence Select Committee recognised the difficulties under which the Ministry of Defence Police were operating; the committee's recommendations led to the passing of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987.[6]

During the period 2004 - 2013 the MDP was part of the wider Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency (MDPGA) together with the civilian uniformed Ministry of Defence Guard Service (MGS). As a result of cuts made to the UK defence budget, arising from the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010, the MDPGA was disbanded on 1 April 2013. The MDP returned to standalone police force status. The MGS was cut heavily and became part of the new Defence Infrastructure Organisation.[7]


MDP officers conducting a firearms search of a warship 2007

The MDP's primary responsibility is policing the Defence Estate throughout the United Kingdom, including armed front-line security at high security sites; it deals with both military personnel and civilians. The MDP are not Military Police and should not be confused with the Royal Military Police or any other Service Police organisation. Although some critics in the press and pressure groups consider the MDP to be a Paramilitary force,[8][9] this is a claim that is denied by the MDP and the UK government.

The Ministry of Defence's requirement of the MDP is expressed in six core capabilities:[10]

Deployment and locations

The MDP is currently deployed at approximately 55 defence locations around the United Kingdom. These include—but are no longer limited to—military establishments, defence housing estates, military training areas, the royal dockyards, and the Atomic Weapons Establishment. Since January 2008, the MDP has also taken on the role of providing armed security at four gas terminals in the UK, part of the Critical National Infrastructure.[11] In February 2015, the MDP deployed officers to GCHQ Cheltenham on a full-time basis;[12] this was in response to the 2014 increase to the UK threat level from international terrorism.[13]

The MDP once had a presence at 120 Ministry of Defence sites such as the Royal Arsenal, munitions and storage depots, Royal Ordnance Factories, and Defence Research Establishments. The end of both the Cold War and The Troubles in Northern Ireland, along with the subsequent closure of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, and the privatisation of entities such as the Royal Ordnance Factories reduced the number of sites that need an MDP presence. Many Armed Forces locations that previously relied upon the MDP for armed security have transferred that role to the Military Provost Guard Service. Some have retained an MDP presence for purely policing purposes, albeit in reduced numbers.


MDP officers armed with MP7s patrol the Government Security Zone in Whitehall, London.

MDP officers are attested as constables in one of the three jurisdictions of the United Kingdom: England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but can exercise their powers in matters relating to the Ministry of Defence Estate throughout the United Kingdom, and additionally in the circumstances described below.[14] MDP officers' jurisdiction relates to subject rather than geographic area and is set out in section 2 of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987,[15] which was amended by the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. MDP officers are based throughout the UK and exercise their jurisdiction over matters connected with the Defence Estate; there is no requirement for them to be on Ministry of Defence land when doing so.[16]

The MDP is classified by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 as a special police force. This gives MDP officers conditional allowance to exercise the powers available to a constable of a territorial police force if an offence or incident is encountered outwith their natural jurisdiction. Additionally, the MDP is able to provide officers and specialist units to territorial police forces on a mutual assistance basis.

MDP officers are able to take on the powers of constables of territorial police forces, or other special police forces, such as British Transport Police, in certain situations. This is known as 'extended jurisdiction' and use of these powers is set out in the Ministry of Defence Police Act (as amended).[16] Protocols are in place which govern the relationships between the MOD Police and local forces under these circumstances.[17]

Policing protocols with other forces

Local agreements with territorial police forces are made under the overarching general protocols agreed between the MDP Chief Constable and other Chief Constables. These set out the agreed working relationship between the MDP and other police forces; outlining, where necessary, areas of responsibility and accountability. The Protocols make provision for consultation and co-operation between the forces, with the aim of delivering the best policing on the ground.[18]


Unlike the other special police forces in the United Kingdom, the MDP does not have a police authority to oversee the functions of the force; however, the Ministry of Defence Police Committee, established by the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987, advises the Secretary of State for Defence on matters concerning the MDP.[19] The Committee (or its members) also has various functions in determining police misconduct and appeals cases.[20]

According to the Terms of Reference of the MOD Police Committee, the Committee is responsible for:[21]

Command structure

The MDP has its own Chief Constable and uses the standard British police rank structure. Since 1995, its headquarters has been located at the former United States Air Force base at Wethersfield, presently designated MDPGA Wethersfield. Force-wide command and control facilities are provided from the Central Control Room and Gold Command Suite. Wethersfield is also home to the Force Training Centre, which is responsible for the initial training and development of all MDP Constables.

The MDP has two land-based functional divisions: (reduced from five Geographic Divisions as part of SDSR in April 2012)[22]

Each division is commanded by a Chief Superintendent and has its own support groups which are able to respond at short notice to any unforeseen incident or emergency. Each station is commanded by a Senior Police Officer who will vary in rank from Sergeant to Superintendent depending on the station's size, role and staffing.


An MDP officer (right)—accompanied by an RMP NCO—patrol Exeter city centre on OP Dissuade, the policing of alcohol-related disorder by off-duty service personnel.

As of October 2013, the force strength was around 2,700.[23]

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for new officers are similar to UK territorial police forces; however, because all MDP officers can carry firearms, the eyesight focal acuity standard and basic fitness standard is higher. Entrants must also be British nationals.[24] The MDP recruits nationally and new entrants may be given a posting anywhere in the UK. In practice, most new entrants are initially posted to nuclear division; either at one of the two AWE establishments in South East England or one of the stations in Western Scotland.[24]

Officers are selected via the College of Policing SEARCH assessment centre process.[25] In addition, candidates are required to pass the MDP job related fitness assessment[24] and a firearms aptitude test.

Initial training

MDP recruits are trained at the Force Training Centre at Wethersfield on a 16-week fully residential course. The program follows the College of Policing initial learning and development syllabus.[26] An MDP anomaly is that there are separate English Law and Scottish Law classes dependent on the individual officer’s posting. Recruits are trained in personal safety including PAVA, extendable baton and kwikcuffs. They also receive level three public order training. The final stage of the course includes the police basic driver assessment and a 6-week Authorised Firearms Officer course held at the Firearms Training Centre at MDP Wethersfield.

Security clearance

In addition to pre-entry security checks, all MDP officers are required to hold at least UK Government Security Check (SC) clearance (which clears the holder to UK Secret level). All Nuclear Division officers, and about 30% of all other officers, are required to hold Developed Vetting (DV) status which involves an intrusive background investigation and formal interviews.[27] DV status clears the officer to UK Top Secret level. Not all officers pass the DV process; such officers are then employed at SC security level within the force.

Those officers working with US Forces in the UK are required to hold a US Common Access Card for which the US Government carries out its own security checks on the officer.[28]

Terms and conditions

New entrants perform a two-year probationary period.

Discipline in the MDP is governed by the Ministry of Defence Police (Conduct) Regulations 2009,[29] which broadly resemble the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008 that govern territorial police forces. MDP officers retain a full national mobility liability, and can be posted anywhere in the UK at any time. In practice most movement is voluntary, either on promotion or requested moves for personal reasons. Like all UK police forces the MDP does not have the right to take strike action.

MDP pay follows the same scale as territorial police forces; however, MDP officers are part of the Civil Service Pension Scheme, not the Police Pension Scheme and only contribute 3.5% of their gross salary, compared to territorial police force officers who contribute 11%. To even out this anomaly, MDP officers pay is abated. This is known as the MDP Net Pay Deduction.[30]

The MDP operates a random and 'with cause', alcohol and drugs screening policy. An annual fitness test for all AFOs is to be introduced.[31]

Defence Police Federation

The MDP has its own federation separate from Home Office Police Federations. The Defence Police Federation (DPF) was created in 1971 and has legal status by provision of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987. The DPF functions in a similar fashion to a Trade Union and membership is voluntary.[32]

Uniform, armament and equipment

MDP Nissan Pathfinder
MDP protected patrol vehicle (Battenburg Markings)


The majority of MDP officers are employed on firearms duties and wear black polo-type shirts and trousers with black jackets. Headdress depends on role, and is either a police baseball cap, or the standard UK police checkered flat cap (for men) or bowler hat (for women). Officers are still issued with custodian helmets and those engaged in general police duties, such as Defence Community Police Officers, may wear them while on patrol. Ballistic body armour is issued to all officers, and a black Kevlar helmet can also be worn by officers engaged on firearms duties, when required. Specialist MDP officers of the Tactical Support Group and Special Escort Group often wear dark blue Nomex coveralls operationally.

The Tunic dress uniform worn by MDP officers is almost identical to that of the Metropolitan Police Service, apart from insignia.


Aside from their personal body armour, PAVA incapacitation spray, batons and Hiatt speedcuffs, MDP officers are trained to use firearms and about 90% are armed at any one time.[33]

Most officers are armed with the force weapon, the Heckler & Koch MP7,[34] while some specialist units use weapons such as the Heckler & Koch MP5 and/or the Diemaco C8. Such units include those working within the Government Security Zone, the Tactical Support Group and Special Escort Group. Some officers carry a SIG P229 sidearm. All armed officers carry (or have immediate access to) Less-lethal weapons which are the Taser and/or 37mm AEP Baton Launcher.

Officers within the Nuclear Division and those working with Nuclear Weapons or special nuclear material carry the 2007 variant of the L85A2 assault rifle, fitted with the Trijcon ACOG sight.


The MDP uses a variety of vehicles, from general patrol cars to specialised escort vehicles, police launches, and off-road vehicles. In 2006, the force adopted the 'Battenburg' system of retro-reflective markings for its new vehicles. This brings the MDP's fleet appearance in line with most other UK police forces.

AWE stations and the Special Escort Group use the Armoured MacNeillie Mercedes Protected Patrol Vehicle.[35] Where used on public roads, these are coloured dark blue, with Battenburg markings. When used only within Ministry of Defence establishments, they are coloured olive drab with black 'Police' markings. This vehicle replaced the MDP's previous armoured vehicle, the Alvis Tactica, in 2010.

Special capabilities

MDP launch in Portsmouth
MDP RIB at Clyde
MDP officer on range—with MP7 in CBRN Suit. (Note: This officer is wearing a Training DPM Mk4 Military CBRN suit. Operationally MDP wear Blue Mk4 CBRN suits)
MDP explosives detection dog searching vehicles
MDP Operational Support Unit officers

Marine unit

The MDP has a large marine fleet. The marine support units are responsible for the waterborne security of Her Majesty's Dockyards and HM Naval Bases.[36] The marine support units are based at HMNB Portsmouth, HMNB Devonport and HMNB Clyde. At HMNB Clyde, the marine unit works with the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines.

Chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear response

Although only constituting 1.5% of the national police force, the MDP has 8% of the national chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) response capability. Officers deployed to Nuclear Division are trained in CBRN defence and to work in radiologically controlled environments. The force maintains a large pool of specially-trained officers nationally, known as the Nuclear Guard Force (NGF),[37] who can be deployed at short notice in the event of a nuclear accident; they perform this function alongside the UK's national Nuclear Accident Response Organisation (NARO).[38]

Dog sections

The MDP has the second largest number of police dogs of any UK police force and utilises explosive, drug, tactical firearms support, and general purpose police dogs.[36]

Special Escort Group

The MDP Special Escort Group protects nuclear weapons and defence special nuclear material in transit.

Criminal Investigation Department

The MDP has a Criminal Investigation Department that works throughout the UK. The CID investigates defence-related crime, including serious fraud. There are a number of specialised units that fall under the larger CID remit. Officers employed within these specialised units must first qualify as a detective. Such units include:

Central Support Groups

The Force has three Central Support Groups (CSGs), which provide regional support where additional resources are needed. These are located at Aldershot, Bicester and Scotland.[36]

Operational Support Units

Operational Support Units (OSU). The OSU is the MDP's mobile, flexible reserve. Each OSU is a rapid response unit tasked with operational support, public order and anti-terrorist search duties. The force has two OSU units, one covering the north of the country, the other covering the south. OSU South is based at MDPGA Wethersfield, OSU North is based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse.

Tactical Support Group

The Tactical Support Group is a specialist group of officers within the AWE Division. MDP TSG is tasked with, and equipped to provide, an advanced firearms response capability at short notice to the Atomic Weapons Establishment. The TSG specialises in dynamic entry and dynamic intervention inside Nuclear Weapons facilities; including, if necessary, the recapture of Nuclear Weapons and special nuclear material.[39]

Defence community police officers

DCPOs are unarmed MDP officers who provide community policing to Defence establishments or large military housing estates, in a similar manner to the Neighbourhood Policing Teams of territorial police forces. DCPOs generally work in single-officer posts and often work from within defence community centres or service police stations. In 2013, the number of Defence sites covered by Defence community police officers was cut, from over 40 locations nationwide to 16 locations.[40]

International policing

The MDP has carried out a number of international policing activities, including the active policing of conflict areas overseas and training of local police forces in these areas. These overseas missions have been conducted under the mandates of the United Nations, NATO, Ministry of Defence, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. MDP officers employed overseas are typically armed for personal protection.

The MDP has been one of the largest contributors of UK police officers to overseas policing missions, with the majority deployed to Kosovo and Afghanistan.[41][42]

The MDP have provided officers to police contingents in many locations around the world, including:

The MDP also provided policing for the Pitcairn Islands from around 2000 until 2007, when the islands employed their own full-time police officer.

Notable incidents and investigations


Affiliated police forces

The Ministry of Defence also has responsibility for two other civilian police forces:

Officers from both these forces occasionally attend courses at the Ministry of Defence Police Training College at Wethersfield, Essex. In June 2005, officers from the GDP marine unit gave assistance to the MoD Police marine unit at Portsmouth during the Trafalgar 200 celebrations.

See also


  1. 1 2 "TalkThrough 150" (PDF). MoD Police. p. 33. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  2. "MDPGA - Chief Executive's Annual Report and Accounts 2006-07" (PDF). Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 2007: 76.
  3. "MOD Police". 29 December 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  4. "Association of Police and Crime Commissioners". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  5. McGinnes, Jamie (27 March 2012). "MoD unveils plans to axe 1,800 police and guard jobs by 2016". Daily Mail. London.
  6. 1 2 3 Button, Mark (2002). Chapter 5: "Specialised police organisations". In: Private Policing. Cullompton: Willan Publishing. ISBN 1-903240-52-2
  7. Ministry of Defence. "MDPGA framework document 2010-2013 - Publications". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  8. Norton-Taylor, Richard (2 April 2001). "Bill could turn MoD police into a paramilitary force, Tories warn". The Guardian. London.
  10. "MOD Police". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2015-06-23.
  11. "police cut gas terminal numbers". BBC. 20 February 2009. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  12. "Exclusive: Armed Ministry of Defence Police go on patrol at GCHQ in Cheltenham". Gloucestershire Echo. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  13. Robinson, Martin. "Armed police patrol GCHQ for the first time amid heightened fears of a 'lone wolf' terror attack after Copenhagen atrocity". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
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  15. "Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  16. 1 2 "Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  17. "MOD Police jurisdiction". Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  18. "". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  19. section 1, Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987; The Ministry of Defence Police (Committee) Regulations 2009
  20. 1 2 The Ministry of Defence Police Appeals Tribunals Regulations 2009 and The Ministry of Defence Police (Conduct) Regulations 2009
  21. "MOD Police Committee: terms of reference". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence.
  22. Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Lords, Westminster. "Lords Hansard text for 27 Mar 201227 Mar 2012 (pt 0001)". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  23. "Ministry of Defence Police Recruitment | Specialist Units". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  24. 1 2 3 "Ministry of Defence Police Recruitment | Specialist Units". Retrieved 2015-06-23.
  25. NPIA UK (Communications), Gav Ireland, Simon Lewis, Dan Fookes, Graham Marshallsay (2012-12-04). "NPIA: Police Recruitment". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
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  32. "The Defence Police Federation Website". 2012-07-22. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  33. "Ministry of Defence Police - Protecting the UK's Defence Capability". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  34. "MoD Police takes delivery of 21st Century Weapon". Government News Network. Retrieved 2007-05-05.
  35. "MacNeillie: All-new 7.5 tonne gvw Protected Escort Vehicle (PEV)". 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
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  38. "Nuclear: emergency planning and atmospheric testing programme". 12 December 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  39. Ministry of Defence Police - Protecting the UK's Defence Capability Archived 19 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  40. "MDP Locations)". MoD (Response to Freedom of Information Request 64/13. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  41. "MOD Police Officers Fight Crime In Helmand | UK Police News". Police Oracle. 2010-01-14. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
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