PSNI chiefs voice 'grave concern' as £14m to be shaved off budget
Senior police officers have warned that the PSNI will not be able to deliver a service that can protect the vulnerable in society or maintain public confidence after further budget cuts.
The Superintendents' Association of Northern Ireland said it had "grave concerns" about the PSNI's ability to maintain current policing levels in the face of local cutbacks, while other forces in the UK are receiving extra cash.
SANI is the staff association representing all Chief Superintendents and Superintendents in the PSNI.
It said it welcomed a "positive announcement" this week from the Home Office that an additional £450m of extra funding will be made available to police services in England and Wales. But it said that stood in stark contrast to a recent budget preparation exercise by local senior civil servants.
While three scenarios outlined by the Stormont officials this week offered a degree of protection for part of the PSNI budget, they were all still likely to result in some cuts to the organisation's funding.
The draft budget exercise was published to highlight the tough choices on the horizon as public services continue to limp on amid the power-sharing crisis.
"The Association is deeply concerned that the PSNI will potentially lose at least a further £14m from their funding in the coming financial year," SANI said.
"This, combined with the £180m which has already been removed from the budget over the last four years, is now placing the PSNI in a position where it cannot continue to deliver a policing service which protects the vulnerable and maintains the confidence and support of all sections of the community it seeks to serve."
SANI noted that the Patton report that led to the PSNI's formation recommended it should have 7,500 officers in peace-time.
"Following budgetary cuts, the PSNI revised the minimum required to 6,963. The Service is now some hundreds below that minimum figure," SANI added.
"A further cut of £14m equates to a reduction of a further 280 in officer numbers. Vacancies are being left unfilled in uniformed and detective units."
The warning comes a day after the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said that any attempt to further cut funding for the police would be "reckless and irresponsible".