The public likes to see police officers out on the beat

A letter from Ross Hussey:

Friday, 9th July 2021, 12:56 pm
Updated Friday, 9th July 2021, 12:59 pm
PSNI officers out walking in Belfast. Technology is no substitute for feet in the street
PSNI officers out walking in Belfast. Technology is no substitute for feet in the street

The question of the ‘establishment’ figure of the PSNI (the number of officers allocated to the service) is again being raised.

Several years ago I argued in favour of the establishment figure of 7,500 officers supporting the stated position of the Police Federation of NI. The justice minister seems to be wavering, implying a raft of new technology will reduce the need for ‘feet in the street’.

I do not agree, several years ago arguments were made that the blackberry phone was the answer allowing officers to do admin, speak to members of the public and find rural areas by use of this technology!

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It wasn’t a real ‘runaway success’. People like to see police officers on the beat, they want a face to face interaction.

When rural police stations were closed a promise of more officers in the area on mobile patrol was made. Was that promise delivered? I would say not.

Over the years I was on the Policing Board as the Ulster Unionist representative I continually reminded board members, chief constables and senior officers that Patten recommended the expansion of the part time Reserve element with the review of the role to police officer part time.

That part of Patten has been completely disregarded. Part time officers have been totally disregarded and despite assurances of a minimum of 40 hours they are now restricted to a maximum of 12 hours per month — failure to complete 12 hours can lead to a disciplinary action and eventual dismissal. They must do no less than 12 and no more than 12.

The designation police officer part time has now been reverted to Reserve Constable.

Look at policing in Great Britain and the use of part time Special Constables and the variety of policing duties they undertake and the hours of duty they perform.

Look at the duties of the part time Reserve of An Garda Siochana which was formed in 2006. The hours they work are surprising and they are clearly regarded as necessary to support policing.

In Northern Ireland the Reserve are being deliberately sidelined to the point of almost ‘extinction’.

I have raised this several times with the current chief constable the need to support community policing by use of local officers who live and work within the community. There’s always talk of reports, consultations and no action.

To conclude we must have a firm establishment of at least 7,500 officers supported by at least 1,500 part time Reserve officers.

Let’s see this matter resolved now before we end up with 6,000 regulars and no reserve!

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