There are several bits of UK legislation which specifically grant powers to a constable in uniform, and not to undercover policemen etc. most notably, the controversial Terrorism Act 2000 section 44 Authorisations.
Power to stop and search
44. - (1) An authorisation under this subsection authorises any constable in uniform to stop a vehicle in an area or at a place specified in the authorisation and to search-
(a) the vehicle;
(b) the driver of the vehicle;
(c) a passenger in the vehicle;
(d) anything in or on the vehicle or carried by the driver or a passenger.
(2) An authorisation under this subsection authorises any constable in uniform to stop a pedestrian in an area or at a place specified in the authorisation and to search-
(a) the pedestrian;
(b) anything carried by him
A "constable in uniform" has a clearly visible Number on his or her shoulders, which can be used by members of the public to help to ascertain whether or not this is a genuine police officer, and to file complaints against any alleged misconduct by such an policeman.
However, when the Police start wearing Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protection suits, gloves and facemasks, several thousand of which appear to be in the process of being procured by the Home Office, none of these normal identifiers are readily visible to the public.
Does wearing such protective equipment mean that a policeman is in no longer legally a Constable in Uniform ?
Since these suits are sold to other emergency services and industrial and military customers, they surely cannot be classed as a unique "Police Uniform" ? Are you at risk of being accused of "impersonating a police officer" if you happen to be wearing a similar protective suit ?
Obviously in an actually hazardous environment, the wearing of these suits is not going to be much of a problem for the, hopefully evacuated general public. However, the vast majority of the time that such suits and masks will be worn, will not be when there is a real risk of contamination, but on training exercises, or in transit to and from a real or hoax or false alarm incident etc.
The on the 6th June 2006, caused the mainstream media to go into paroxysms of "dirty bomb" and "weapons of mass destruction" hype and speculation, because so many Police officers were wearing, or partly wearing (e.g without donning their facemasks) such protective suits.
Wearing a protective facemask and gloves may also have contributed to the accidental shooting of one of the people who arrested during this pre- dawn raid. Quite reasonably, the man who was shot, claims to have had no idea that the armed people dressed in sinister black protective suits and masks, creeping up his staircase in the early hours of the morning, shouting muffled warnings, were actually duly authorised Police Constables in Uniform.
Surely all such Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protection suits need to be clearly marked with Police Contsables' individual identification Numbers ?
As these protective suits become more common, and one has to wonder why the Home Office has not procured sufficient of these suits and masks years ago, since the risks of contamination incidents have been exactly the same for many years, there is a very real risk, that criminals will use them as disguises when carrying out armed robberies or kidnaps etc. by instituting their own fake evacuation cordons and exclusion zones, around their targets.
It is not inconceivable that members of the public will call for Police armed response units to investigate suspicious, unidentifiable people lurking around in black or aluminium coated protective equipment, with which they are unfamiliar, since the Government's Civil Contingencies "resilience" plans do not extend to paying for regular, realistic Civil Defence exercises, which actually involve large numbers of members of the public.
It appears that some Members of Parliament, or at least their research staff, do actually read Spy Blog:
Written answers Monday, 22 January 2007
Nicholas Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether a police officer wearing a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protection suit will be classed as a constable in uniform.
John Reid (Home Secretary)
holding answer 16 January 2007
Yes. An officer in protective equipment which has been officially provided to supplement the police uniform retains the full police powers of an officer in uniform.