Police manpower numbers in Northern Ireland should be reviewed, the favourite for the justice ministry has said.
Keeping a police station open in every village is not a good use of public money, David Ford told the Assembly.
The Alliance leader is expected to become Justice Minister once powers are devolved from London to Belfast on April 12.
“There will be difficult issues that will have to be tackled there,” he said.
“I think MLAs and other public representatives need to face the fact that keeping a police station open in every village is not a good use of public resources in the kind of pressures we are under and there are real issues about what actually contributes to making a safer society rather than managing the previous and ongoing patterns.”
A cross-party vote in the Assembly approved the decision to take policing powers, with the only objection from the Ulster Unionists.
Mr Ford said there was a major issue concerning the large section of the budget for justice “immediately swallowed up by the police service by commitments on salaries and pensions”.
The Northern Ireland Office has allocated £1.2bn to policing in the coming year.
A spokesman for the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “From June there will be no full-time reserve officers on front-line duty. We are saying that will be a mistake.”
MLAs will today vote on establishing a justice committee at Stormont to scrutinise the Justice Minister.