PSNI in ‘dire straits’ claims Kennedy

September 1, 2009

Speaking following the disclosure of an internal PSNI document which outlines the current difficulties facing the police, Ulster Unionist MLA and  former Northern Ireland Policing Board member, Danny Kennedy, has again expressed his concern that enough care is not being taken in the rush to devolve policing and justice powers.

“This report is shocking and highlights a number of concerns which the Ulster Unionist Party has had for some time. It provides further evidence that we can’t rush the devolution of policing and justice powers,” Mr.Kennedy said.

“The report tells people what they have long suspected – that the service the PSNI has been providing clearly hasn’t been up to scratch. The revelation that there are 704 fewer police officers on the beat will come as no surprise to the general public concerned with the visibility of the PSNI.  Nor will be the admission by the PSNI that it does not provide an effective 24-hour policing service come as any surprise to people who have tried to contact them after hours.

“There’s simply not enough money – we are missing £13m in the budget this year. This is huge considering that only 14% of the £1.2bn police budget is flexible. There are now going to be more shortfalls. Moreover, the number of police officers on the beat has been reduced and is set to fall again this year.  Then, for the police officers we do have, they spend 61% of their time in stations. Red-tape and bureaucracy appear to have taken over. What’s more is that the experience base of response officers has decreased by almost three quarters. And, there are more experienced officers set to leave this year.”

Reduced budget

Mr Kennedy says there is simply not enough money to sustain current policing levels, much less improve policing in Northern Ireland.

“The report highlights that reduced budgets are one of the biggest challenges the PSNI is facing and this burden is occurring within an ongoing security situation. We are about to face an autumn where there’s going to be prolonged debate on the politics of devolving policing and justice.  Instead, what is of uppermost priority is proper funding, proper police numbers and the practicalities of less paperwork. Less paperwork will mean more time solving crime and finding criminals. Those that argue for a compliance-based policing must recognise that this does not come cheap and that using resources for excessive form-filling saps frontline services and arguably adds little to the proper oversight of policing. It’s time for us to cut the red tape that is hindering police officers from doing the job they want to do and we expect them to do.

“I am a supporter of local accountability and devolution but look at the fiasco over education. It’s a shambolic standstill. It would be disastrous for our society to experience a similar shambles over policing or justice,” he warned.

“While politicians and commentators are debating the legal niceties about devolving policing and justice, the bigger picture is being missed – less police officers on the beat, a police budget in crisis, and police officers forced to fill in paperwork rather than prevent crime and catch criminals.”