Row Over PSNI 'Cut Too Deep' Comments

The number of police officers in the North has been cut back too far, with the PSNI Chief Constable's most recent assessment being that police numbers were reduced too quickly following the paramilitary ceasefires.

Matt Baggott spoke at the Ulster Unionist Party conference on Saturday and said the reduction in the number of full-time PSNI officers from 13,000 to 7,000 was done with the best intention and that no one should be blamed for the current difficulties.

He also conceded that some counter-terrorism expertise had been lost due to an "overly optimistic" assessment of the security situation.

While the remarks were welcomed by Terry Spence of the Police Federation who said it was an "honest recognition that more resources are needed", Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said the PSNI was adequately resourced.

"The police service has enough officers and their difficulty is that they have not yet managed how best to use their personnel," he claimed.

Meanwhile, reacting to the PSNI boss's comments, Terry Spence of the Federation said it was a fair assessment: "We were jeopardising the peace by reducing police numbers and capability when the threat and incidence of violence were quite evidently growing.

"The obvious response to Mr Matt Baggott's analysis is for the Executive's Department of Justice and the NI Policing Board to get their heads out of the sand and insist on the necessary funding being made available and the recruitment of 1,000 more front line officers," he said, adding that the remaining 230 full-time reserve officers should not be released next March.

NI Policing Board member Mr Maskey was scathing however and said: "Firstly I would remind Matt Baggott that it is his job to implement the necessary changes which were required to policing here and secured under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

"I find it truly disrespectful that he decided to make the announcement at a public session of the Policing Board without consulting members first.

"Everyone acknowledges that too many PSNI Officers are sitting behind desks, pushing paper. We need them on the street, serving our communities.

"As for the comments from Terry Spence regarding the retention of the full-time reserve; that is an argument that has been had and merely goes to highlight further the Police Federations incessant culture of wanting more and more.

"The PSNI already has enough personnel, it's past time they started using them effectively to meet the demands of the people," he fumed.


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