Belfast Telegraph

Police need resources to do job

Editor's Viewpoint

Shortly after Matt Baggott was appointed Chief Constable of the PSNI in 2009 he outlined a vision for the force which put greater focus on crime prevention by putting more officers on the ground working closely with communities.

However, the upsurge in dissident republican activity and serious unrest on the streets sparked by parades bans and controversy over flags meant this was an ideal which could never be fully realised.

His successor, George Hamilton, faces even greater problems, chiefly caused by swingeing cuts to the policing budget which means that force numbers will fall below the minimum required to be fully effective in the performance of its duties.

Due to a £6.2m cut in the budget there will be no money next year for recruitment to fill the vacancies left by retiring officers. Even more worryingly, overtime is being cut which will mean fewer police on the ground. As we approach the marching season and the potential for civic unrest that will place officers in metaphorical handcuffs.

It is little wonder that morale in the force is suffering. We demand a lot from our police officers but they are being denied the resources they require to do the job to their full potential.

Mr Hamilton, as he is almost bound to do, says that they will still relentlessly pursue criminals of all types. That is aimed both at reassuring the public that their safety is still the priority and at warning criminals they cannot expect to exploit the force's difficulties.

There is no doubt that the PSNI will have to find new ways of working within their resources, prioritising the areas of focus and coping with an increasing workload which the Chief Constable spelled out in detail at a meeting of the Policing Board.

In previous times his predecessor was able to convince the Treasury of the need for additional funding, but the present climate of austerity in the public sector makes such pleas more difficult to press.

Yet it has to be remembered that even 17 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland is still a society in transition. A viable terrorist threat remains and organised criminality has taken a firm root.

We require a police force with its full complement of officers and with the capacity to respond to criminality in all its forms. It cannot be denied the resources to do its job.

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