PSNI officers' lives 'will be at risk' if budget cuts go ahead
PSNI recruitment could be frozen, policing standards will fall and officers could be placed at greater risk from terrorists if savage cuts to the policing budget go ahead, the Police Federation has warned.
The Federation said the cuts, combined with an exodus of experienced officers, could leave the PSNI undermanned and unable to provide a proper service.
In August, Chief Constable George Hamilton warned that the PSNI was planning for cutbacks of up to 6%, around £40.5m.
The Police Federation represents 6,800 rank and file officers in Northern Ireland, although the Patten report recommended around 7,500 officers for policing in peace time.
Chairman Mark Lindsay described the assault on the PSNI budget as "a short-sighted measure", and appealed to Justice Minister Claire Sugden to "make a stand for policing".
Mr Lindsay said that if officer numbers are cut back and recruitment shelved "there will be a drastic reduction in the service on the ground".
He added: "The officers I represent don't want that to happen. But we're realistic enough to know that if there are further budget cuts, they will be unable to deliver the policing service the public expects.
"With previous cuts of £250m already made, we're seeing cracks appearing in relation to increased officer stress levels, the disappearance of Neighbourhood Policing and a shortage of officers capable of dealing with Public Protection issues such as child abuse."
Mr Lindsay said that one option open to senior command is to substantially reduce recruitment or impose a complete 'freeze'.
"Hundreds of jobs could disappear with officers leaving the service not being replaced," he said. "In addition, the 'severe' terrorist threat means that officers' lives could potentially be put at risk by not having adequate resources to protect themselves and their colleagues as they deliver policing in a far from normal society."
He added: "I would appeal to the Justice Minister to make a stand for policing by resisting this further attack on the PSNI budget."
North Antrim MP Mr Paisley urged the PSNI to make a robust case to the Secretary of State and Justice Minister for an increase in its budget to ensure safe and beneficial policing for everyone.
"I back the calls made by the Federation that the police service is under funded and under staffed," he said. "The police need a further 1,000 officers to meet the letter of the law.
"The number of crimes and attacks on officers is because rank and file members are stretched and it is about time focus was made on getting the rank and file numbers back to an acceptable strength level."
Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey also voiced concern.
The Policing Board member said: "The Executive has to address this situation urgently and ensure that the PSNI has sufficient resources - not least in terms of personnel - to protect the public and catch criminals."