The News Letter has discovered a ‘potentially dangerous’ situation where almost 20 PSNI stations are manned by only one unarmed security guard at a time.
In September the News Letter reported that security at major PSNI stations was to be reduced to only one front gate security guard at any given time. A few weeks later this paper reported that the plans had been scrapped, reportedly as a result of the publicity.
But now security guards at other stations have come forward to say they have already been working alone for some time – under conditions they say the USPCA would not allow a dog to be kept in.
“I work as a security guard at a station and the problems are not resolved, for many of us they are ongoing,” one guard said.
“The U-turn that the police carried out was only about stations which had two guards and were proposing to go down to one.”
Up to 20 stations along the border and in greater Belfast were already down to only one, he said.
“It is common to work 12 hours in the front sangar alone without a break and on occasion it could be up to 16 hours if there is no replacement guard available.
“The contractor [G4S] is supposed to send a driver around to give us 30-minute breaks but often this does not happen as they are needed elsewhere. But if you stuck a dog in a sangar for 12-16 hours the USPCA would investigate. It is just not humane.”
Union organiser Michael Mulholland of GMB said that after the News Letter contacted him, he met with G4S, and is to meet them again this week to get a fuller understanding of the issue.
“We will not be supporting single manning of stations as it is unjustifiable in our view,” he said. “We would hope there will be a change in policy.”
UUP MLA Rosemary Barton said she was thankful that the proposal to go down to one guard was not followed through for other stations.
“But now it has been brought to my attention that a number of police stations already had the number of security staff reduced to just one.
“Given the potential of danger that comes with this role and the very low level of pay that these security staff are receiving, it is reasonable to request the PSNI to provide a practical and satisfactory level of security. This should mean at least two staff on at all times.”
A PSNI spokesman said 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,” he said.
Security contractor G4S declined to comment.