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Police need our support in these trying times

Editor's viewpoint

The latest revelation from the Chief Constable George Hamilton about a further decrease in the numbers of his officers gives cause for concern.

The PSNI is to lose no fewer than 238 officers over the next two years due to budget cuts. These reductions in resources seem to go on and on, and the Chief Constable underlined that in the past 13 years or so, the police service has implemented cuts totalling around £386 million.

People talk about financial cutbacks, but this is what it means on the ground. In 2014, a review on resources concluded that a minimum of 7,000 officers were needed for a resilient PSNI, but the latest cuts will mean that the force will be reduced over the next year alone to 6,700 officers.

This is against a background of the recent closure of police stations, and the latest PSNI crime statistics. These show an overall decrease of 6.6%, but increases in specific sectors, including nearly 30,000 incidents with a domestic abuse motivation, and increases in paramilitary-style shootings and assaults.

The pressures on the police force and its leaders continues to increase, and the Chief Constable has consistently flagged up the issues which result from not having enough officers, and also the fact that there can be specific policing demands - including the control of parades - which greatly increase costs.

In a wider context the pressure on police resources is such, following the Manchester bombing, that the military has been called out to assist security in specific areas.

Mr Hamilton has said that there will not be troops on the street here as the current security risk is not deemed as great as in other parts of the United Kingdom. Let's hope he is right.

Nevertheless there were extra precautions at the SSE Arena in Belfast last night, and people here may feel uneasy following what has been happening in Manchester and many other places.

That said, however, we in Northern Ireland have a long history of dealing with severe security threats, and despite this, of getting on with our personal and business lives.

In the last resort, however, the police force remains the essential line of defence against mayhem, and the officers need and deserve all our support.

Specifically the Chief Constable and his colleagues need particular support and understanding in trying to provide the best service possible, despite falling numbers.

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