NI21 leader Basil McCrea yesterday issued a stark warning that the PSNI do not have the resources to deal with both riots and criminality.
Earlier this week Police Federation chairman Terry Spence warned that over 500 officers had been hurt since last summer because of trouble at parades and Union Flag protests.
Yesterday Mr McCrea backed his concerns.
“Politicians have to decide whether they want the PSNI to police division, riots and protests or do the work of ordinary policing – catching criminals and keeping communities safe,” he said. “There are currently not the resources to do both.”
He said that people “deserve a police force that has the resources to catch criminals and keep them safe”.
The MLA added: “Northern Ireland and the PSNI cannot afford more prolonged protests or violence.”
A PSNI spokeswoman said there had been no increase in the numbers of officers seeking psychiatric referrals over recent months in relation to civil disorder. “The bottom line is we have had hundreds of police officers injured and one officer injured is one too many,” she said.
Mr Spence told the News Letter yesterday that the force was “reaching breaking point”. There were 12,000 full-time officers at the time of the signing of the Belfast Agreement, but only 6,900 today. “This problem is not going to be sorted out any time soon,” he said. Another 1,200 officers are eligible to retire on maximum pensions between now and 2016, he added. Mr Spence said he welcomed comments from Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie that the force is “under great strain”.