Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: PSNI is in dire need of more manpower

Many people will be disagreeably surprised to learn that the PSNI is currently spending £125,000 each day on overtime, with a likely bill of £50m for this year.

This seems an awful lot of money to keep the service going, and some police officers have been claiming overtime of up to £40,000 a year.

Even though the numbers earning this large amount in overtime are relatively low, it is clear that many officers are clocking up a considerable amount of extra money.

The Police Federation claims that there is a need for more officers, but the Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris blames the current shortage of recruits on the prevailing climate of political uncertainty.

Everyone agrees on the need for an effective police force, and while it appears that overtime in moderation is working as a top-up on salary, the PSNI is relying on it to do its job.

Many officers working longer hours are having to deal with personal issues of stress and health, and this is not the best way to run a police service. The numerous station closures provide practical evidence of the increasing stress.

Not for the first time, this newspaper has underlined the difficult task facing the Chief Constable George Hamilton.

Since he took on the role in 2014, he has had to make more than £100m in budget cuts, and from 2004 around £389m have been slashed from the budget.

This has led to a significant drop in police numbers. Lord Patten recommended a new force with 7,500 members.

Four years ago a review recommended a minimum of 7,000 officers, but today the PSNI is only 6,711 members strong. Since the Good Friday Agreement no fewer than 69 police stations have closed. These figures speak for themselves.

Against such a background of stretched resources, there has been a series of alarming high-profile crimes, including an elderly lady in Aughnacloy who was injured when jumping through an upstairs window to escape intruders.

Terrorism remains a threat, as well as the daily list of crimes at all levels. All of this worries the public, who are aware of the lack of officers, including those on the beat.

Safety is paramount, and the PSNI cannot continue indefinitely to depend on overtime at a worrying level just to do its normal job. Resource levels need to be urgently addressed to prevent the problem getting out of hand.

Belfast Telegraph

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