Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Police flak jacket shortage worry

Policeman

Police officers have raised concerns about a shortage of flak jackets, amid heightened security following three murders earlier this month.

In emails obtained by the BBC, officers in one district were told small-sized body armour supplies were "exhausted".

"If you are in possession of small armour and are on duties in the district where armour is not required, return it," officers were told.

The PSNI said the safety of all police officers was "of paramount importance".

Another email said there was no concealed armour in stock.

In the email from a police facility which deals with equipment supplies, it said Weapon Control had been receiving many inquiries about ballistic body armour for stations and personnel use.

Officers were given instructions on how to alter existing stab vests to make them bullet-proof.

There is obviously a heightened sense of risk, but the long-term future is not for us to be going back where we've got police officers in flak jackets on every corner
Basil McCrea
UUP Policing Board member
However, it is understood that modified stab vests will only stop a bullet from a pistol but not from guns such as rifles.

The PSNI said in a statement that all appropriate measures had been taken to ensure officers are adequately protected.

"Ballistic body armour is available in all stations for use by officers as required.

"At this time, further supplies of ballistic body armour are being supplied to address issues around the availability of some sizes."

In a statement, the Police Federation said that they would be addressing these issues with the chief constable as a matter of urgency.

Budget

DUP Policing Board member Ian Paisley Jnr said it was "worrying that any officer would feel they are inadequately equipped".

"If they feel that equipment is either not available or not up to the job, that is something that we take very seriously," he said.

"I wouldn't want people to be worried that the police is not adequately equipped. We do have a large budget, we are trying to spend it appropriately and a number of these matters are purely operational."

Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Basil McCrea said any equipment shortages "to do whatever is necessary in the short-term" were not due to a lack of funding.

"There is obviously a heightened sense of risk, but the long-term future is not for us to be going back where we've got police officers in flak jackets on every corner - you can't live life like that and it's not normality."

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