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Security can't be compromised

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 29/06/2015

The Belfast Telegraph reveals today that due to budget cuts, the PSNI is reducing the number of neighbourhood policing teams from 84 to 30, and this does not create confidence among the people who rely on the police for protection.

The general public in Northern Ireland has become accustomed to the presence of a local team of community officers, and this has been vital in building up relationships with the police in areas which the PSNI have found it difficult to reach.

People like to see the officers "on the beat" because they give a human face to policing, and they provide reassurance that there is help at hand in times of difficulty.

However, there is no doubt that the cuts will affect the visibility of the police, and despite the optimistic words of Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin about making the best of the resources available, people at the grass-roots level will come to their own conclusions.

Not so long ago we were being told that community policing was the way forward for the PSNI, and Sir Matt Baggott, the former Chief Constable, was appointed on the basis that he was the best qualified senior officer to deliver it.

Sadly, however, this has not worked out as planned. Because of swiftly-diminishing resources, the police have had to move their focus back to targeting areas of the greatest crime, to keep the public as safe as possible.

This is understandable, but the PSNI must be careful that they do not break the vital links with the communities - a retrograde development which will only store up more trouble in the long run, and create many more problems.

Today we also publish the comments from an anonymous officer who paints an almost frightening picture of the problems caused by the lack of resources. These include low morale, excessive working hours, administrative overload, outdated police vehicles, and a situation where senior officers are demanding more and more from fewer personnel.

Like everyone else, the PSNI has to make do with less, but security is too important to be thus compromised. A good start would be for our politicians to agree finally on how to deal with the past, thereby helping the police to free up their resources to deal with the present.

Belfast Telegraph

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