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Police officers quit as investigation into AWE patrol failings begins
SEVEN police officers have quit and others working for the Ministry of Defence are under investigation for misconduct after allegedly failing to complete their full patrols of the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Burghfield.
The MoD said “disciplinary action was immediately initiated” after a number of officers were alleged to have failed to meet the required standard when patrolling the site, where Trident nuclear warheads are built.
An investigation is ongoing, and the MoD has reported the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
A spokesman for the MoD said: “It would be inappropriate to comment further while the case is ongoing.
“However, we can be clear that at no point was the security of the site or its nuclear assets compromised.”
The spokesman added that seven of the officers have resigned without facing disciplinary charges, and that, where appropriate, officers have been removed from the site to other duties pending the conclusion of the “mandatory police misconduct investigation”.
The MoD said the allegations relate to only a “small percentage of the overall patrolling requirement at the site”, but added: “Any failure, however small, in matters relating to nuclear security is taken very seriously.”
The Daily Mirror reported that as many as 50 officers are involved in the investigation and that there were claims that some of the officers were sleeping on the job. This has been denied by the MoD.
The spokesman said: “Security at the AWE sites is kept under constant review. Ministry of Defence Police will work with AWE to ensure that any improvements needed as a result of this investigation are implemented.”
Nuclear safety campaigners have written to the chief constable of the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) to request an investigation into police management standards at the Burghfield site following the revelation.
The Nuclear Information Service has sent a letter to Steve Love, raising concerns that the scale of the problem may highlight more serious issues.
Peter Burt, the campaign group’s director, said: “The sheer scale of the problems suggests that the issues here go beyond misconduct by individual officers, and are underpinned by more systematic flaws with supervisory standards, security culture, and attitudes to police work.
“The investigation into this case needs to focus on these more serious issues at the higher level in the police management structure, and not just scapegoat the individual police officers.
“The findings must be made public so that we can see that action is being taken to address any failings.
“The AWE Burghfield site handles radioactive materials, explosives, and hazardous chemicals and the Government never misses an opportunity to tell us how sites like this are at constant risk from terrorist attack.
“At a highly sensitive location like this, it is important that security standards remain at the highest level.”
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