Shake-up plannedfor protection squads for Royals

Royal Family. Photo: PRESS ASSOCIATION
Royal Family. Photo: PRESS ASSOCIATION
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Protection squads guarding the royal family and key political figures are facing a major shake-up in the wake of scandals including the plebgate row and claims that officers stole confiscated weapons at Buckingham Palace.

Faced with budget cuts in Home Office funding, Scotland Yard bosses will merge four existing units into two, meaning senior management will be slashed.

Force chiefs also want to disrupt “one or two pockets” where officers have become “overly comfortable and familiar” by moving staff who have been in their jobs for several years.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley admitted that a number of scandals are being investigated, including claims that police at Buckingham Palace had stolen confiscated weapons.

The Metropolitan Police also suffered serious embarrassment during the fallout of the plebgate row, when former chief whip Andrew Mitchell was involved in a confrontation with an officer guarding Downing Street.

Mr Rowley said: “While money is not the prime driver for this, of course we do have to deliver value for money and as the overall policing budgets are pressured so the protection budget provided by the Home Office has been pressured over recent years. We’re constantly looking for ways to save money that don’t impact on the quality of protection.

“Bigger units and more flexibility helps us tackle one or two pockets where we found culture had built up in an unacceptable way over a period of time.

“You’ve seen the awful behaviour of a small number of officers, Operation Alice which is our investigation into what went on at Downing Street, and there are one or two other current misconduct investigations such as the investigation linked to property seizures at Buckingham Palace.”

Officers who guard sites including Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster will be merged into one team, as will squads that deal with personal protection for politicians, diplomats and the royal family.

Mr Rowley said: “On the one hand we must maintain the personal protection of principals with people they trust and work with them over substantial periods of time, on the other hand though you need flexible groups of protection officers in support of those.”