Security at major PSNI stations is to be reduced to “reckless” levels from next month with the number of front gate security guards dropping to only one at any given time, it is claimed.
Fermanagh South Tyrone UUP MLA Rosemary Barton said there are currently two guards on duty at any one time, but that the new situation could leave lone, unarmed security officers guarding the gates of police stations – some of which would be empty – overnight.
“Prominent police stations like Dungannon, Enniskillen, Cookstown and Omagh will be reduced to just one civilian security officer at all times from the middle of next month,” she told the News Letter.
“I understand that the security staff levels at these stations has been reduced in the past, however the latest proposal to have just one officer at all times is reckless and from a security perspective is irresponsible.
“One person, who must remain in the one security hut for a 12 hour shift at a time, is ludicrous. The potential security implications are unthinkable, and the morale depression for staff I assume has not been considered.”
She understands that cuts have left the PSNI almost 1,000 officers short of Patten recommendations, the number of stations greatly reduced, and public access to officers “greatly diminished”.
However this is “another penny-pinching exercise, which will come at a serious security risk” she added.
Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said the bottom line must be the security integrity of stations.
“How that is handled, and the nature of the contracts that are agreed, are a matter for the PSNI. However, in any contract, adequate weight has to be placed on contractor resilience and numbers of personnel deployed to undertake the work.
“If numbers mean long, unbroken shifts then that is something that has to be looked at carefully. Safety of officers is uppermost and nothing should be done that calls that into question.
“I appreciate there are budgetary constraints, but nothing should be done that weakens security or undermines the quality of the service that is provided.”
The PSNI responded that it does not comment on specific security arrangements.
“However keeping the public, our staff and officers safe is of paramount importance and all security arrangements are risk-assessed and reviewed on an ongoing basis,” it added.