Belfast Telegraph

Police must be the only law enforcers

Editor's Viewpoint

There appears to be a disconnect between the view of the Chief Constable George Hamilton on the effectiveness of the PSNI in carrying out its operational duties and those of officers on the ground who feel the force does not have sufficient resources to meet the demands on it.

Mr Hamilton told this newspaper last week that although the PSNI is 700 officers below the 7,500 strength recommended by the Patten Report, it can contain the threats from dissident republicans and carry out its policing role.

His view has been challenged by serving officers who painted a very different picture when they contacted this newspaper.

There are concerns over the effectiveness of firearms training, the speed of response to public requests for help, and the efforts of dissident republicans to become an alternative policing service in west and north Belfast.

The dissidents have obviously taken a leaf out of the well-thumbed republican book on how to ingratiate themselves into communities concerned about the level of anti-social behaviour on their streets.

They have been ramping up their own barbaric style of street justice, with more kneecappings and so-called punishment beatings being dished out, as well as suspected thieves of cars and other goods being pursued and their booty recovered.

The dissidents know police cannot usually respond instantly to such incidents and, even when they do, the lack of real evidence can be a hindrance in apprehending those guilty of offences. The dissidents don't have the same concerns over the quality of evidence - and there is no appeal against their punishment.

But it is not just the police that the dissidents are challenging in these areas. They are also throwing down the gauntlet to mainstream republicans, in effect saying that they are of sufficient strength and with enough public support to undermine Sinn Fein's support for the PSNI.

It was noticeable that after the wounding of a young policeman in north Belfast recently, police investigations were hampered by the lack of information from the public, according to the Chief Constable.

It has to be said yet again that the PSNI is the only acceptable force of law and order in this province and must be fully supported by the public. How can we ever forget the ruinous effect on this country of allowing private armies to flourish and wield their evil influence over communities?

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