Large numbers of middle-ranking police officers have failed to secure promotion sparking fears of a vacuum at the top of the PSNI.
It emerged today that 53 chief inspectors applied for annual promotion to the rank of superintendent. Despite there being 17 vacancies, just two were promoted.
In February six out of 24 superintendents were promoted to the rank of chief superintendent.
And today a member of the Policing Board today warned there will not be enough experienced police officers left to command the PSNI unless urgent action is taken to replenish the higher end of the “relatively inexperienced” force.
UUP board member Basil McCrea said the failure of a large number of middle-ranking police officers to secure promotion to senior posts is leading to a vacuum at the top of the PSNI.
Assistant Chief Constable Dave Jones headed the last interview |panel and is said to have thought that the majority of officers were not |experienced enough for promotion.
Many of the most senior police officers in Northern Ireland have left in recent years through the Patten severance scheme and a high number of the posts still remain vacant.
With another 1,100 officers due to go before the end of next year under Patten, police chiefs called for an emergency meeting to be held today to try and work out how to fill the gaps in senior posts.
The PSNI said that it operates a “rigorous internal selection process” for officers at all grades and added it is “confident that it has experienced officers in the correct and appropriate roles at every level throughout the service”.
A spokeswoman added: “Proof of this can be seen as crime has continued on a downward trend over the last seven years while public confidence in police and the service we deliver is increasing. The PSNI will continue to train and develop the skills of all officers to ensure the public receive a first class policing service.”
Mr McCrea however said the recent failure of so many officers to make the grade at promotion is a “huge blow to morale” and “suggests there is a big problem, particularly as so many experienced officers have been let go under Patten”.
“I am very concerned that this situation is going to lead to a vacuum at the high end of policing. We have to remember that at the end of next year we are letting 1100 officers go because that is the end of Patten. Experienced Chief Inspectors and Superintendents may be forced to stay on because we don’t have the man power,” Mr McCrea said.
He added: “I fear we will have no experienced police officers left. There are definitely more than two good Chief Inspectors in the PSNI. If we do not bring them forward now it means that next year we will not have sufficient talent to promote to Chief Superintendent level where we are going to have big gaps.
“I have no doubt the Policing Board will want to know what is going on. There is a very difficult time coming up with a relatively inexperienced force. Urgent action must be taken before we have no experienced police officers left to command the force.”
The Police Federation said due to the proposals to reduce police officer numbers in the province, any difficulties in filling promotion vacancies are likely to be resolved in time as the opportunity for promotion diminishes. A spokesman added: “This will lead to tough competition for places.”