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Police cuts: We must ask just what we expect from thin blue line


Dr Jonny Byrne

Dr Jonny Byrne

Dr Jonny Byrne

There is rarely a more emotive policy issue than police budgets and a potential reduction in the number of police officers.

In Northern Ireland, the majority of the public has become accustomed to a significant policing and security presence. While there continues to be a real threat from dissident republicans, and loyalist groups continue to exist, many would feel that decreasing the size of the PSNI would be lunacy.

Furthermore, given our unique circumstances, with political and cultural disagreements having the potential to manifest quickly into public disturbances, some could argue that we need the reassurance that our police have both the resources and capabilities to keep people safe'.

However, the reality is that the policing and community landscape across a number of jurisdictions is being transformed.

A reduction in police numbers should not necessarily mean a decline in the quality of service or a reduction in public confidence in policing.

What we really need to ask ourselves is, what do we expect from the PSNI in 2016 and, more specifically, what should the roles and responsibilities of an officer be?

Evidence would suggest that fewer officers in visible roles should not affect levels of crime. We need to make better use of police by ensuring their time and commitment is focused on the present, not the past.

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Therefore, we need a political agreement on addressing the legacy of the past. We also need to improve the productivity of Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.

These forums should be harnessing the resources of other public service organisations alongside the community to support the PSNI in policing this society.

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