A SENIOR PSNI officer has called on government to beef up staff numbers – and do it quickly.
Chief Supt Nigel Grimshaw made his during the annual meeting of the superintendents association.
It was attended by Chief Constable Baggott and Justice Minister David Ford.
CS Grimshaw said numbers had been “depleted” over the years which left the PSNI severely stretched.
Yesterday, the PSNI launched its latest recruitment drive for new officer intake.
Said Chief Supt Grimshaw: “Lst year we had the expected recourse to mutual aid from other UK police forces because of the unusual demands presented by hosting the G8 Conference.
“But we also had to depend on mutual aid for part of the marching season. This is a symptom of having allowed the numbers, particularly of officers, to become depleted to the level whereby we could not flex internally to the extent necessary to meet all of the demand.
“It is my hope that this experience is the exception rather than the norm. It is my firm belief that our numbers ought not to have been allowed to drop to their current levels.
“We welcome the resumption of recruitment and the entry of a new squad of student officers into training but it is imperative that the finances are made available to enable us to be resourced at a level commensurate with our need.
“Within the context of the ongoing level of threat, our current operating environment and the likely demands over the forthcoming years, we are firmly of the view that we need more officers and staff, and we need them expeditiously!”
He also rejected claims by Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness of a ‘dark side’ to policing following the arrest of its party president Gerry Adams for the murder of Jean McConville in 1972.
“Only last week, we heard strong and what many see as sinister words suggesting that there was an old guard operating within the PSNI leadership, and that there had been a manifestation of a ‘Dark Side’ (of the British system).
“The law is very clear, the Police Act of 2000 charges the Police Service with a responsibility to investigate crime. All of our officers must to follow this duty, in the words of Sir Robert Peel, ‘without fear or favour’.
“It does not matter whether that officer is a neighbourhood officer, in a response vehicle or in a detective unit. As an Association, we reject all attempts to differentiate between our members and to single out as being different, those who lead on serious and terrorist crime.
“We are one Police Service, we stand together collectively in keeping NI safe and resisting interference in the exercise of our duties, and with lawful and necessary investigations.
“The dark territory is actually occupied by those who want to remain in the shadows of a murky past, those who continue on a path of murder, violence and destruction. In carrying out criminal investigations, police officers are simply acting on behalf of the victims of crime and society in the search for justice.
“The multitude of victims of our troubled past can only look to the criminal justice system to do that on their behalf.
A number of efforts at moving this issue forward have failed at various stages. Perhaps it is time to disaggregate the past, parades and protest and seek individual approaches rather than composite solutions. Any solution for the past must address the obvious pain of victims and their relatives, it must secure the truth, and it must ensure that no-one can utilise such a process to inflict further hurt through any sense of perceived triumphalism.
“Of course the present is also sapping police resources in a way that distracts from other more pertinent matters. The repetitious protests and counter protests are a hugely expensive diversion of police resources that might be better deployed in the communities affected. Continued social deprivation and educational underachievement in some of our communities will not be assisted by maintaining limited horizons and reinforcing siege mentalities – sieges that might go all the way back to Drogheda or Derry, depending on the perspectives that have been adopted.
“The sad reality, of course, is that the solution to the problems is not a policing one but in the absence of development in other arenas, we frequently have to deal with the symptoms and find ourselves in an invidious position where we may be condemned if we do and equally condemned if we don’t. Often policing is portrayed as the ‘meat in the sandwich’.
“That can be an overly simplistic analogy, when in fact we have a huge contribution to make to the health and well being of communities regardless of the situation we face. What we do or don’t do, how we engage and interact with communities, be they involved in parading, protesting or simply trying to address issues of community safety and quality of life has a huge impact on overall confidence in policing and in the communities themselves. However, for policing to make that contribution effectively we need the support and working partnership with the community, political and civic leadership, and other sectors. Partnership means we all take ownership, we all shoulder the responsibilities, we share the successes and we face the challenges together. The Superintendents Association is proud of our policing heritage in Northern Ireland, and we as the senior operational leaders in the Service have delivered transformational change across the last two decades, when others arguably have lagged behind. Yet, it seems so often we are subject to criticism for matters, the solutions for which, ultimately lie in the hands of others. Policing has once again been challenged recently with reference in a legal judgement to a ‘policing inertia’ when dealing with the flags protests. I wonder were others equally challenged with the commentary of at least one well-informed academic who was quick to highlight the breadth and depth of policing considerations and suggest that perhaps the inertia actually lies elsewhere.”