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Police Federation ‘astonishment’ at understaffing estimate

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers.

The Police Federation has expressed “astonishment and dismay” that the Secretary of State and Chief Constable have said the PSNI is understaffed by only 168 officers - saying instead that over 1000 more are actually needed.

Chairman Terry Spence said last night that officers are currently working 12-hour shifts to cope with demand and that arrests for routine crime were down by 4000 last year.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the PSNI currently has 6,795 officers but Chief Constable Matt Baggott recently told her 6,963 are needed for it to perform effectively.

Ms Villiers said she optimistic the shortfall can be dealt with.

During Northern Ireland Questions in the Commons yesterday, she said: “The current number of officers in the PSNI is around 6,795. The chief constable recently told the Policing Board that the minimum number he needs to perform effectively is 6,963,” she said.

But the Police Federation hit back with a statement last night, expressing “astonishment and dismay” at the Secretary’s of State understaffing estimate.

Mr Spence said: “If we have adequate police numbers with the 6,963 officers proposed by the chief constable then why did we need an extra 1,000 officers under mutual aid last summer, a source of help which cannot be guaranteed or quickly mobilised? Why is our current complement of 6,795 having to work 12-hour shifts and being denied their rest days and annual leave if we are only 168 or so officers short?

“Everyone in the PSNI at ground and command level knows the PSNI is struggling to deliver a proper police service. The chief constable himself said that arrests for routine crime were down by 4,000 last year because of the priority necessarily being accorded to the security and public order situation.

“We are so desperate for more officers that if it’s a question of money then the time has come to reconsider the £140m being spent on a training centre at Desertcreat to recruit a mere 168 officers.”

Responding to Mr Spence’s comments, a spokeswoman for the PSNI said: The chief constable is on public record saying that the PSNI need approximately 7,000 officers against the current operational demands/threats.

“In order to reach this, we will have to recruit significant numbers over the next few years.

“The aim is to recruit up to 100 in the 2013/14 financial years; we hope to be able to appoint up to 378 further student officers from the merit pool of candidates.”

The spokeswoman said discussions to secure funding were ongoing, and added: “We will continue to face challenges in the months and years ahead and it is our responsibility to ensure that PSNI provides a service, that not only meets the needs and expectations of the community we serve, but also provides value for money.

“In relation to mutual aid, like any other police service, it would be remiss of the PSNI not to have contingency plans in place in order to deal with exceptional circumstances should they arise which is why we participate in the ACPO Interoperability Programme.”

But the Police Federation hit back with a statement last night, expressing “astonishment and dismay” at the Secretary’s of State understaffing estimate.

Mr Spence said: “If we have adequate police numbers with the 6,963 officers proposed by the chief constable then why did we need an extra 1,000 officers under mutual aid last summer, a source of help which cannot be guaranteed or quickly mobilised? Why is our current complement of 6,795 having to work 12-hour shifts and being denied their rest days and annual leave if we are only 168 or so officers short?

“Everyone in the PSNI at ground and command level knows the PSNI is struggling to deliver a proper police service. The chief constable himself said that arrests for routine crime were down by 4,000 last year because of the priority necessarily being accorded to the security and public order situation.

“We are so desperate for more officers that if it’s a question of money then the time has come to reconsider the £140m being spent on a training centre at Desertcreat to recruit a mere 168 officers.”

Responding to Mr Spence’s comments, a spokeswoman for the PSNI said: The chief constable is on public record saying that the PSNI need approximately 7,000 officers against the current operational demands/threats.

“In order to reach this, we will have to recruit significant numbers over the next few years.

“The aim is to recruit up to 100 in the 2013/14 financial years; we hope to be able to appoint up to 378 further student officers from the merit pool of candidates.”

The spokeswoman said discussions to secure funding were ongoing, and added: “We will continue to face challenges in the months and years ahead and it is our responsibility to ensure that PSNI provides a service, that not only meets the needs and expectations of the community we serve, but also provides value for money.

“In relation to mutual aid, like any other police service, it would be remiss of the PSNI not to have contingency plans in place in order to deal with exceptional circumstances should they arise which is why we participate in the ACPO Interoperability Programme.”

 

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