Editor's Viewpoint: Time to address PSNI reliance on overtime
In today's newspaper we reveal that during 2018-19, the PSNI paid over £100,000 a day to police officers for overtime.
This seems an astonishing figure in these days of cuts on spending, but the reality is that between April 2018 and March 2019 PSNI officers worked 1,457,640 hours of overtime which cost a total of £37,953,000.
One officer claimed a staggering £50,000 for overtime, while another worked an astonishing 1,759 extra hours in a single year.
Apart from the great boost to income, one wonders how anyone can work so much overtime in only one year.
These figures are alarming, but they also highlight the severe shortfall in police services that the relatively new Chief Constable Simon Byrne inherited when he took over what is undoubtedly the toughest job in UK policing.
The particular challenges here are legion. They include such seemingly intractable problems as continuing dissident republican violence, the unresolved legacy issues from the past, and problem bonfires.
It is estimated the PSNI is short of 800 officers to help it provide an effective service, which gives some perspective to the all too high overtime payments. In August we revealed how the Chief Constable was facing a backlash from officers over his attempts to clamp down on overtime. It was proposed that officers would be required to work on their rest days with the promise of a day off in lieu.
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Such proposals could add even more pressure to the already stressful job and may, in turn, add even more challenges and strains to home life.
On the other hand, the overtime payments have provided a financial bonanza for a number of officers, but they and their families may have to ask themselves "is it all worth it?"
When Mr Byrne applied for the top job, he was aware of the need for the PSNI to appoint someone with the experience to drive and deliver organisational change.
That is a major challenge facing any leader who has to deal with the financial restraints facing the force.
The fact remains, however, that the PSNI must still rely on overtime to do its job. Nevertheless police officers must not be allowed to suffer collateral damage as this disturbing situation is allowed to rumble on.
The reasons for such a huge overtime bill are complex, but surely all concerned should make a fresh start in tackling the main problem, which is undoubtedly a lack of resources.