Belfast Telegraph

Hamilton warns that more top officers may leave PSNI over Northern Ireland political impasse

By Jonathan Bell

PSNI chief George Hamilton said his organisation is "vulnerable" to losing more senior staff because of the ongoing political vacuum in Northern Ireland.

It comes after Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris was unveiled as the new head of An Garda Siochana on Tuesday.

At the Northern Ireland Affairs select committee on Wednesday Mr Hamilton explained how the senior management team of the PSNI would have six temporary officers out of the nine positions following the departure of Mr Harris.

Mr Hamilton again congratulated Drew Harris on his appointment as the head of the Garda, saying that while it was a loss, it would no doubt strengthen ties between the two organisations.

Under the law Mr Hamilton can appoint temporary positions but it was subject to the Policing Board to make them permanent. And the Policing Board needs Stormont up and running in order to be reconstituted and continue its work.

Mr Hamilton said the lack of a Policing Board for the past 18 months had a number of consequences for his £1billion operation.

The police chief said that the current situation in the senior team created a "vulnerability" both for the organisation and for those in the positions.

While he said their work was at a high level, they were getting a "wonderful experience" which other organisations would covet and could take advantage of, as there was no mechanism in place to give officers a permanent job.

He said that while he did not want to be too pessimistic or negative about the situation as the officers were carrying out an outstanding job, it was something he "couldn't rely upon or exploit".

He also explained how the Policing Board offered a "positive platform" to allow the PSNI to "explain ourselves frankly".

"We are getting reports from HMIC [Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabularies] some of which is very good news for our performance, reports from the Ombudsman which is often a mixed bag - sometimes our actions are validated, sometimes they are criticised," he said.

"But the policing board gives us - when it is functioning - a very good public platform to explain ourselves either in the positive or the negative. Defend or explain basically."

Chair of the committee Andrew Murrison said it appeared the PSNI was reaching a position of  "unsustainability" and the PSNI was effectively becoming a "staging post" for officers to advance their careers and improve other police forces.

"It does not add up to an effective police force, does it?"

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