Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Tough choices ahead for PSNI

It is clear that there are tough times and hard choices ahead for the PSNI. Facing the possibility of budget cuts amounting to £1m a week over the next four years, the force is also having to pay a high price for legacy issues.

These include the possibility of charges arising out of the Saville report, post-traumatic stress and hearing loss claims which are eating up more of the budget, as are investigations into unsolved crimes.

All of these issues are very important but, given the finite nature of resources, priorities are going to have to be drawn up. There are no more blank cheques for any sector of Northern Ireland life, and policing is no exception. The real problem for Chief Constable Matt Baggott is how to meet the competing demands of his force today and the costs of legacy issues.

The challenges facing the PSNI at the moment are varied and intense: organised crime, everyday policing matters such as road traffic accidents and burglaries, and dealing with the menace of dissident republicans.

There is evident exasperation in his statement that the police cannot afford to police the present, and also pay for the past. He accepts that many people will want answers about past crimes associated with the Troubles - although the public rejection of the Eames-Bradley recommendation for dealing with legacy issues shows how difficult it is to get any consensus on the way to obtain answers.

It is clear that there will have to be a transparent and mature discussion on the priorities of the PSNI in the coming years. Those are decisions which should not be taken behind closed doors by a select number of people, but should involve the public, either through consultation, or via their political representatives.

What sort of police force and what sort of service do we want? Those are the core questions which must be answered, ultimately by Mr Baggott and Justice Minister David Ford.

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