Six key questions to the Deputy Chief Constable
Q. The PSNI has said it needs at least 6,963 officers, but yet you are currently more than 100 short. Why?
A. We have sought to protect the number of 6,963 officers, which is what we have said is our operational requirement. We fell back to around 6,700, but we are building back up again, and by March we will be into the 6,900s due to the recruitment campaigns.
Q. I am aware that during budget discussions, officials within the DOJ asked if the PSNI could operate with less officers. Could you?
A. Police numbers are tied in with the amount of money we get. Given the area we police - it is the only part of the UK with a land border, the particular issues around ongoing violent extremism, be it from dissident republicans, or from loyalists, and problems identified around gangsterism - based on our assessment, 6,963 is the number we need. To go beneath that we think carries significant risks. If the money drove us there, well that would cut into police numbers. But before we go to the front end we always look to see what we can do to save money and to be more efficient and effective.
Q. What are the areas that you can trim back on?
A. Some of the things we look at are around the structures, streamlining processes, using IT more effectively. We are doing all we can to safeguard the frontline both in police and staff who provide a frontline service.
Q. Are there any other areas where we can expect to see further cuts?
A. What we are going to have to do is look at what we spend on overtime, sports services and functions. Can those be delivered more efficiently? I'm involved in going through every activity that we take on. A lot of these areas have built up over time, so we will look at these afresh and at what we get out of that spend. That's an exercise that will go on over the next few months. It is something we have seen being carried out by police in England and Wales.
Q. Are you confident you won't have to cut police numbers in the near future?
A. All we have is the budget for 2016/17. To give those longer-term assurances is very difficult. I think for the budget for 2016/17, we will talk to the Policing Board about how we will spend this money, how we will use it to maximise our operational capability and fulfil the Policing Board's policing plan. Part of that would be around maintaining our overall operational capability, and that includes police numbers. It will stretch us and continue to stretch us, but at the same time we will be working very hard to make sure we maintain our operational presence. We are very much focused on using our resources to keep people safe and deal with vulnerability and serious harm issues.
Q. Are you confident you can fulfil your commitment to legacy investigations and inquests given the continually shrinking budget?
A. The Legacy Investigation Branch is still operational. We would have preferred to see the Historical Inquiries Unit come to fruition and we wait to see developments in that respect.
However, in the meantime, we will fulfil our commitments around live investigations we have opened within the Legacy Investigations Branch.
We continue to resource those appropriately.