Who is the Ministry Of Defence Police?

The MDP, an amalgamation of the Army Department, Air Force Department and Admiralty Constabularies, is celebrating 50 years.

The Ministry of Defence Police, more commonly known as the MOD Police or the MDP, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

They are a national civilian police force serving the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and other UK Government departments and US Visiting Forces.

Its purpose is to deliver unique specialist policing and to protect the nation's defences and national infrastructure.

The origins of the MDP

Protecting defence is the primary objective of the MDP, with its earliest origins being recorded from 1574, at Chatham Dockyard.

In 1686 the nation's naval yards were protected by a force of 'porters, rounders, and watchmen'.

It was not until 1834 that the first Dockyard Police Force was formed, only to be closed down after an inquiry, led by the Admiralty and Metropolitan Police.

In 1860, the Metropolitan Police took over policing the dockyards; a role it carried out for the next 75 years.

The Metropolitan Police was withdrawn from the dockyards in 1922 and was replaced by the Royal Marines Police, which comprised mostly retired members of the Corps of Royal Marines.

Post war

In 1964, the War Department Constabulary was renamed the Army Department Constabulary, when the War Office became the Army Department.

In the same year, the Air Ministry became the Air Force Department and its police force was renamed the Air Force Department Constabulary.

The renaming of the Army and Air Force Departments took place as a result of the decision to combine the departments together with the Admiralty – now known as the Royal Navy – under the control of a unified Ministry of Defence in 1965.

Then the amalgamation of the three Defence Police Forces followed and the Ministry of Defence Police was established on 1 October 1971.

The modern force

In the last two decades, the MDP's size and structure has transformed but has continued to protect the nation's defences and national infrastructure.

2001 marked the 30th anniversary of the MDP and significantly the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, which included an increase to MDP jurisdiction.

The 9/11 attacks were the catalyst for the introduction of the emergency anti-terrorist legislation.

For the MDP, this had the effect of extending its provisions of the MDP Act 1987.

Since 2001, the MDP has been called upon to support Home Office colleagues on some notable occasions including the London bombings in 2005, the Ipswich murders in 2006, Glasgow Airport terrorist attack in 2007, the 2012 Olympics, Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 and, most recently, the G7 Summit in Cornwall.

Ministry of Defence Police a consistent force for the last 50 years Officer checking passes at site entrance point UK DATE UNKNOWN Credit MDP.jpg
MDP officer checking passes at a site entrance point (Picture: MDP).

Modern responsibilities of the MDP 

Prior to their formation, the MDP's Defence policing was mostly delivered by carrying out static gate duties, checking passes and patrolling fence lines.

Static armed duties and fence line patrols have remained a vital part of the MDP’s role today, but due to the nature of the threat to national security evolving, the force's role has changed too.

While continuing to protect defence establishments and sites of national importance, the MDP's role has developed through the decades to focus on specialist armed policing, counter-terrorism and expertise in dealing with large-scale protests.

The MDP also offers a range of specialisms from dog handling to marine policing, from investigating crime to public order, and from community policing to protestor removal.

MDP personnel are dispersed across the United Kingdom with almost 2,900 cops and 300 civilians.

They are not just a defence asset, though, serving United States Visiting Forces, critical national infrastructure sites and other service providers.

MDP personnel also provide a scalable armed capability to wider policing at times of national emergency.