The Port of Bristol Police is a non Home Office force of uniformed, warranted constables dedicated to protecting the port complexes and community situated at the mouth of the River Avon on the border between Bristol and Somerset. Officers are sworn under the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847.
The Port Police has existed at Avonmouth Docks since 1884, but has been in its present form since the end of the Second World War. In modern times it is responsible for policing and certain security measures at Avonmouth Docks, Royal Portbury Dock and the trading estates owned by The Bristol Port Company that are situated at the outskirts of the port areas.
The Bristol Port Company is the statutory undertaker (within the meaning of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) of the harbour area and is solely responsible for financing and employing the Police.
The port does not constitute a separate police area; it remains within the Force Area of Avon & Somerset Constabulary. There is a Memorandum of Understanding between the Port Police and Avon and Somerset, which formalises and reiterates the long-standing arrangement that agrees the division of responsibility. The conduct of Port of Bristol Officers is overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
The Chief Officer also holds the position of Port Facility Security Officer, as defined under the ISPS code administered by The Department for Transport Maritime Security. He participates in various forums where the port community has both the opportunity, and is encouraged, to express its opinions and concerns on policing issues.
Whenever possible, the Port Police adopts a multi-agency approach to dealing with border control and other issues arising in the Port area. Whilst not adopting the role of UK Border Agency (UKBA), Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA) or any other agency, the Port Police often act on their behalf when dealing with offenders.
The Port Police provides specialist advice to the harbour authority concerning investigations and prosecution, thereby allowing marine officers successfully to complete enquiries into maritime incidents such as pollution from oil spills and obstruction of shipping lanes, etc.
The Port of Bristol Police is a founder member of the Port Police Chief Officer’s Association.