Morale amongst officers in the full-time police reserve has reached rock bottom because of ongoing uncertainty about the unit’s future, a serving officer has warned.
The claim from a long-serving reserve officer comes as the Chief Constable considers plans to retain the full-time reserve for a further nine months.
The officer, who has more than 20 years’ police experience, accused the PSNI of treating reservists as “human shields” against a rising terror threat from dissident republicans.
Last month it emerged that 227 reservists facing the axe could be asked to remain operational for an extra nine months because of the worsening security situation.
It is the latest twist in years of uncertainty for the FTR, which was set up in the 1970s to support the regular police force against the growing paramilitary threat.
Last June Sir Hugh Orde announced the reserves would be axed only for his successor as Chief Constable, Matt Baggott to reverse that decision.
The officers, who were due to begin resettlement training in June, have instead been asked to stay operational for another nine months.
But that has caused confusion and uneasiness among reservists who claim they have been left in limbo.
The officer, who spoke out on the condition that he was not identified, said the continued uncertainty was damaging morale.
“The feeling is we are being used as human shields,” he claimed. “We’re being kept on while the terrorist threat is high and then once it dies down we’ll be got rid of.
“Morale is rock bottom. We don’t know what is happening, we keep hearing different things and there is just so much confusion. We’ve been messed about so much since the 1994 ceasefire — one minute we’re not needed, the next we are. It just feels like we are being used.
“It’s not as though we’re doing factory work — we are out risking life and limb in the middle of a dangerous terrorist campaign.”
He has also called on the Chief Constable to provide a guarantee that the original severance package — notably the nine-month resettlement training programme to help them find new jobs — will still go ahead next year.
“A lot of boys have pulled out of retraining to remain operational and yet we still don’t know for certain what they’re going to offer us,” he added.
“Come next year the fear is you’re just going to end up on your own.
“There is supposed to be civilian jobs as well but we haven’t heard anything about that.
“There are so many ifs and buts, and it seems they’ve chosen to shaft the reserve and keep us on for a few more months until they get something cobbled together.
“It’s the equivalent of putting a sticky plaster over a great big gaping wound to hold things together in the hope the dissidents will suddenly just go away.”
The officer, who is based in the south Armagh area, warned that hundreds of years of frontline policing experience would be lost if and when the reserve is finally axed.
“In this area alone, once the reserves go, you’re looking at losing about 800 years of policing experience,” he added.
“Most reserves have 20 years or more frontline service behind them. They have local knowledge and also the experience of dealing with a terrorist campaign.”
And he claimed that Mr Baggott’s move proves the original decision to axe the reserves had not been fully considered.
A PSNI spokesman said: “No offers of extension have been made to any full-time reserve.
“We continue to consider the options of retention and in doing so considering ways to ensure officers are not disadvantaged in any way.”