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Reality of PSNI budget laid bare

Editor's Viewpont

Published 30/06/2015

When politicians talk about budget cuts it usually washes over the head of the man and woman in the street, who are not used to dealing with unimaginably large sums of money. However, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has put the implications of his force's reduced funding starkly in a context which we can all understand
When politicians talk about budget cuts it usually washes over the head of the man and woman in the street, who are not used to dealing with unimaginably large sums of money. However, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has put the implications of his force's reduced funding starkly in a context which we can all understand

When politicians talk about budget cuts it usually washes over the head of the man and woman in the street, who are not used to dealing with unimaginably large sums of money. However, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has put the implications of his force's reduced funding starkly in a context which we can all understand.

Essentially, police will only respond to the most urgent calls for help where there is a risk to life or an imminent emergency. It currently receives about one call every minute from the public, but most of those will have to take their turn for resolution.

That is not what someone whose home or business has just been burgled, or whose car has been stolen, or who is being harassed by yobs, wants to hear. To the victims of what may be described as petty crime, it is a considerable drama in their lives. Then there is the growing menace of cyber crime such as exploitation of vulnerable young people or online bullying. The recent tragic case of Tyrone teenager Ronan Hughes, who took his own life after being tricked into posting images on the internet, shows the potential consequences of crime which is just a click of a mouse away.

What the Chief Constable wants - and what we should press our politicians into doing - is implementation of those parts of the Stormont House Agreement which relate to legacy issues such as a new independent body to investigate past unsolved murders, a task currently putting a significant drain on PSNI resources. That is not only the right thing to do, but also an imperative to free up resources.

Policing contentious parades also eats up police funding. The failure of politicians, community leaders, loyal orders and residents' groups to earnestly seek a resolution of those parades which cause friction year after year is an abdication of leadership. It is wrong to ask police officers to hold the line at considerable cost to their personal safety because we lack the maturity to give each other's community mutual respect.

Then there is the ongoing threat from dissident republicans. The effort to combat their nihilist campaign aimed almost exclusively at attempting to kill police officers is immense and costly. The Chief Constable and his officers deserve our full-hearted support - but more importantly, a budget that reflects the scale of their task.

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