Cuts mean we have to prioritise policing like never before, says PSNI chief George Hamilton
The PSNI Chief Constable today lays bare the "colossal" changes that lie ahead for policing in Northern Ireland.
After a year at the helm, George Hamilton has written exclusively for the Belfast Telegraph about the immense strain that budget cuts and dealing with the past are placing on the PSNI.
In a frank account the Chief Constable reveals how:
- The PSNI receives a call for help every minute.
- Officers will no longer be able to personally respond to every call.
- Forecasts for future budgets are a cause for concern.
- Public confidence in the PSNI is at risk with no mechanism to deal with the past.
“The last year has been one of tough choices and many more lie ahead... the level of change that will be required during my time as Chief Constable is colossal,” Mr Hamilton warns today.
Mr Hamilton, who has 30 years of policing experience in Northern Ireland, was appointed Chief Constable in June last year following the retirement of Sir Matt Baggott.
Just weeks into the job he was faced with crippling budget cuts which have led to the PSNI becoming a significantly smaller organisation.
Earlier this year it emerged that the strength of the PSNI could drop to 6,770 by April 2016 because there is no money to replace retiring officers. Last year a review found that a minimum of 7,000 officers was needed for a “resilient” force.
Mr Hamilton says that he could “never have envisaged the scale and challenge” of the budget cuts.
He warns that while the PSNI’s core purpose of keeping people safe will not change, “reducing resources means we have to prioritise... in a way that we have never had to before”.
The Chief Constable reveals that police receive an average 1,338 calls from the public every 24 hours — that amounts to almost one call every minute.
“I know that when people pick up the phone, they expect police to be there for them... if there is a risk to life or an emergency we will be there for people. Those who do harm to others will continue to be investigated and put before the courts... but in order to prioritise these areas, there has to be give elsewhere,” the Chief Constable says.
Dealing with Troubles-related atrocities is also placing resource pressure on the organisation and is putting public confidence in the PSNI at risk, he adds.
“Over the past 16 years, the police service I lead has played a huge role in delivering the relative peace we enjoy today. The result has been confidence in policing in levels I would not have believed possible when I joined the police service in 1985.
“It deeply concerns me that all this progress is left at risk while PSNI continue to bear the brunt of a broader failure to deal with the past.”