Belfast Telegraph

Call for more PSNI officers is welcome, says policing board member

Concerns: former NI Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde
Concerns: former NI Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

A Policing Board member has backed a call from a former chief constable for PSNI numbers to be increased.

Earlier this week Sir Hugh Orde warned the current total in Northern Ireland was at a "dangerous level" amid a rise in dissident republican terror attacks.

Sir Hugh, who led the PSNI from 2002 to 2009, said he was "not persuaded" the number of officers was sufficient.

Police numbers are currently 800 below what was suggested when the PSNI replaced the RUC in 2001.

Current Chief Constable Simon Byrne has called for funds to increase police numbers to 7,500.

Sir Hugh's call for more officers was backed by former RUC reservist Alan Chambers, who is the Ulster Unionist Party's Policing Board representative.

Mr Chambers said: "For years now the Ulster Unionist Party has been calling for PSNI numbers to be increased to the 7,500 officers recommended by Patten, as a matter of urgency.

"Sir Hugh Orde's recent intervention is therefore most welcome, and it is almost frightening to think that he had almost 9,000 officers available to him in 2002 and yet we are now down to 6,700.

"This is a completely unacceptable situation when you consider that Patten recommended 7,500 full-time officers backed up by a Part-Time Reserve of 2,500, giving a total of 10,000 officers.

"Given the uncertainties surrounding Brexit and the ongoing campaign against the police from violent republican terrorists, a complement of 7,500 is the bare minimum that should be made available to the new Chief Constable Simon Byrne."

Speaking to the BBC earlier this week, Sir Hugh said: "When I took over, I had well over 9,000 police officers and a full-time reserve, which also had to be disbanded under one of the many Patten reforms.

"And that was done very effectively, I would argue.

"I think to drop below 7,500 is dangerous. I would have fought tooth and nail to prevent that, as I know the chief officers did.

"But austerity struck Northern Ireland in a rather unthinking way."

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