Northern Ireland

G8: GB police officers begin training for Fermanagh summit

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Media captionPolice officers from across the UK have been training alongside the PSNI at Longmoor Training Camp in Hampshire ahead of the G8 Summit in Fermanagh.

A string of Police Service of Northern Ireland Land Rovers roar into view, lights blazing, sirens wailing. The unit screeches to a halt and officers in full riot gear start pouring out of the backs of the vehicles.

Commands are shouted and responses are given in accents that are not local - neither is the location.

Longmoor Training Camp is a Ministry of Defence facility in Hampshire in the south of England. The police officers, drawn from constabularies across the length and breadth of Britain, have come to be trained up in public order duties.

In a few weeks time they will be on duty in Northern Ireland as mutual aid officers during the G8 summit in Fermanagh.

New skills

The training course has been devised and run by the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland).

"All of these officers being trained have never worked with armoured vehicles before," said the officer in charge of training, Ch Supt Kevin Dunwoody.

"There are differences in PSNI tactics such as bringing police vehicles up into the front line. They're also not used to wearing ballistic body armour and many of them are not used to working with the intermediate riot shield," he said.

Since April, more than 3,000 policemen and women have been trained for duty in Northern Ireland during the G8 summit later this month.

The training has taken place in Longmoor in Hampshire and at Catterick military base in Yorkshire.

Image caption The G8 Summit will take place in Fermanagh on the 17-18 June 2013. Around 3,600 extra officers have been drafted in to support the PSNI.

The officers have been trained in simple tasks such as how to quickly embark and disembark from an armoured police Land Rover in full riot kit, up to facing a hostile crowd throwing petrol bombs and how to react if a gunman is spotted amongst the rioters.

Sgt Scott Hargreaves of Wiltshire police is responsible for training his own force in public order duties but says this course has taken it to another level.

"I've policed many of the bigger events in Britain such as the Notting Hill Carnival, some of the larger scale football matches but I volunteered for G8 duty to give me the experience of seeing how a different police force operates," he said.

"I think it's important for us to receive this training particularly around some of the tactics which are new to us such as the water cannon, the baton gunners and the armoured police vehicles."

'Peaceful protest'

While the training draws heavily on lessons learned from public order policing in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years, the experience of officers in Britain has also influenced certain tactics.

"G8 isn't about high level rioting, a lot of it is about peaceful protest which we have a responsibility as a police service to facilitate," said Supt Dunwoody.

"We are learning as much from these officers who are coming over to Northern Ireland because of the experience they've got on peaceful protests. For example they've done the environmental protests, they've policed animal rights campaigns".

The training has been about preparing for the worst while hoping for the best as Ch Supt Dunwoody explained.

"It's about giving them tactical options, it's up to the commanders on the ground to decide which tactic they use," he said.

"It's like working on an engine, if you've only got one spanner you won't get too far. We're giving them all the tools that they will need to deal with all the conditions they could possibly face."

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