PSNI recruitment freeze to end
The PSNI is expected to restart recruitment next year in a bid to stem a decrease in police numbers as more than one in six serving officers near retirement.
Chief Constable Matt Baggott was forced to freeze recruitment two years ago because of cuts to the policing budget.
But concern over future establishment figures has led to a decision to launch a campaign for new recruits within the next 12 months.
Due to future budgetary uncertainties, however, the recruitment drive will likely be on a much smaller scale than previous campaigns for trainee officers. Police officers are recruited for a 30-year period, and with further financial cuts looming, there have been serious concerns over the long-term affordability of signing up new trainees.
But with more than 1,100 police officers due to reach retirement age over the next three years, the PSNI must act quickly to ensure the level of resources is maintained.
The PSNI said while it is difficult to predict how many of those officers with appropriate length of service will actually retire, the matter is being kept under constant review.
Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said that the PSNI and the board are determined to maintain the current quota of around 7,100 police officers.
He added, however, that recent demands from the Northern Ireland Police Federation for the immediate recruitment of an additional 1,000 officers will never be met.
“The recruitment of new officers next year is a very welcome step.
“There is a determination to try and keep the police force numbers up to the current size,” the DUP man said.
“I do not think that the scale and size of recruitment will be as it was in the past, given the financial pressures.”
Mr Craig added that under the present budget there will not be an increase in the current numbers of police officers.
“Increasing the number of officers is something that has to happen under the guidance of the Chief Constable,” he said.
“So far the Chief Constable has not indicated a requirement for that increase.
“It would be a very serious decision to make, given the financial burden that it would place on the budget.”
The PSNI said it will always ensure a level of resources is maintained “to deliver the policing service that the community expects, alongside being able to police exceptional circumstances, including increased terrorist activity.”
A spokeswoman added that the levels of resources are continuously monitored to ensure operational capability.
“We will continue to face challenges in the months and years ahead and it is our responsibility to ensure that the PSNI provides a service, that not only meets the needs and expectations of the community we serve, but also provides value for money.
“Officers with appropriate service may retire if they so wish, it is a matter of individual choice and circumstances, and is something which we keep under constant review,” she said.
Almost 1,200 police officers are reaching retirement within the next few years. That is more than one in six of the current police force. It is not currently known how many of those officers will decide to retire, however the Police Federation has raised concern over the potential effect on resources. Recruitment was frozen two years ago because of budget cuts.