The Police Federation for Northern Ireland has called for urgent assurances that the PSNI will have adequate resources to patrol the Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has asked the Home Office to fund 400 extra officers to cope with Brexit. The federation, which believes even more officers will be needed, said a Government decision was “overdue”.
Federation chairman Mark Lindsay called for “certainty, direction and clarity” around Brexit and what it will mean for policing in the region after March.
“We cannot afford to sleepwalk into a situation where, at the last minute, officers are redeployed from cities and towns such as Belfast, Ballymena or Coleraine to some of the major crossing points along the 310-mile border with the Republic of Ireland,” he said.
“We need hundreds more officers if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal. The case has already been made by the PSNI for more resources, and decisions are now overdue.”
Mr Lindsay said it was impossible to produce 300-400 officers overnight, and unless approval for the extra officers is granted soon “we will be left to confront major gaps in service provision”.
UUP Justice Spokesman Doug Beattie said: “Policing numbers are already hundreds below the figure recommended by Patten and successive cuts to the policing budget have led us to a crisis situation.”
Former PSNI ACC Alan McQUillan added: “We are already 650 officers down on the Patten recommendations, but they did not take into account heavy demands from dissident republicans and legacy policing.”
A government spokeswoman said over £4bn has been invested in UK Brexit preparations. “The PSNI has submitted a case for additional resources to Treasury and that bid is currently being considered,” she said. “A response will be provided once the bid has been fully assessed.”
A PSNI spokesman said: “There has been and continues to be high level engagement with Government about the challenges facing PSNI in the context of a severe terrorist threat, and the potential operational implications of what will become the only land border between the UK and the EU. These discussions are addressing what the appropriate uplift for PSNI resources should be.”
He confirmed that the PSNI has developed and submitted a business case to Government on how to address the issue and is now awaiting a decision.