PC `in agony' over body armour

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A FEMALE police officer has had surgery to reduce the size of her breasts because she was in constant pain from wearing protective body armour, it emerged yesterday.

Constable Jackie Smithies said that some of her colleagues in the Greater Manchester police force were planning to have similar operations in order to carry on with their jobs.

PC Smithies, 36, said she had had shooting pains through her breasts from wearing the weighty protective tunic. She is likely to be off full duties for about a year after having the operation to reduce her breasts from 36G to 36C after two years of "sheer pain".

She said: "I don't regret having the operation but at the end of the day I have still got scars. It is a drastic step."

The case highlights the growing number of complaints among female police officers who say that the body armour worn by officers is often too heavy and uncomfortable. In October 1997, PC Nina Mackay was stabbed and killed by a paranoid schizophrenic after she removed her body armour because it was difficult for her to use a battering ram while wearing it.

In the past three years, police forces have been providing officers with vests and armour to protect them from an increasing number of physical assaults, often involving knives. Some female officers have had to put up with ill-fitting men's tunics and cut-down body armour or equipment that comes in limited sizes.

Early results of a survey carried out by PC Smithies revealed that none of the 700 female officers who responded found armour worn underneath the uniform was comfortable. "Ninety-nine per cent found it a nightmare," she said, after a discussion on body armour at the Police Federation's annual conference in Blackpool.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: "The trouble with covert armour is the lads can take their shirts off at break time but the ladies have a bit more difficulty."