Long shifts with poorly-structured leave have played “havoc” with PSNI officers’ lives, their representative organisation has said.
Serious gaps and enormous damage were caused by following priority based resourcing (PBR), which was scrutinised by the audit office’s latest report, the Police Federation Northern Ireland said.
Chairman Mark Lindsay said: “Where there are fewer officers and hundreds of millions of pounds less to maintain the service, something had to give.
“That is why absences rose from eight to fourteen days over a nine-year period.
It is all the more remarkable that officer morale didn’t go into meltdownMark Lindsay
“Doing more with less comes at a heavy price.
“For many officers, excessive work patterns and long shifts with poorly-structured leave and rest days played havoc with their lives and the lives of their families.”
He said “slavishly” following PBR left serious gaps and caused enormous damage.
“Against that fact, it is all the more remarkable that officer morale didn’t go into meltdown.”
He said the problem was worsened because the PSNI could not build up any resilience.
“Unlike other forces in the UK, the rules in Northern Ireland prevented the organisation holding financial reserves which could have cushioned against the worst effects of cutbacks and downsizing.
“Mistakes were made, and they have been acknowledged by the PSNI, and now we have to develop new ways of doing things which place officer wellbeing and resilience at the heart of the strategy.
“Great harm has been inflicted and it will take time and commitment to repair the damage.”
He said they were beginning to see a turnaround with a “long-overdue” increase in officer numbers.
“Hundreds more are required to get us to the 7,500 which was a peacetime minimum, which was a commitment in ‘New Decade, New Approach’.
“The PSNI desperately needs investment in estate and equipment to begin to deliver on longer-term savings.”
He said it was “heartening” that some of the audit office’s recommendations were already being implemented.
“That said, the budget cannot stand still when demand for services is on the increase.
“It will be up to the Department of Justice, and the Executive, to properly resource the PSNI to deliver for officers and the general public they serve.”