Commenting after urging the Chief Constable to redouble efforts to monitor the abstraction of officers from community-focused roles, the East Belfast MLA said:
‘‘Neighbourhood policing ought to be the jewel in the crown of our Police Service. Instead, the Chief Constable has confirmed that the number of officers serving in these roles will shrink even further in the coming days because of budget pressures.
This is not only a backward step toward keeping communities safe but hugely damaging to public confidence. Neighbourhood officers form vital relationships with local communities. They are often the public face of the PSNI in those communities and a first point of contact. Therefore when an officer is redeployed, even for the short period of time, that knowledge and intelligence is lost.
I welcome the fact that ACC Bobby Singleton recognises this is a cause of significant frustration within NPTs. These officers care deeply about the communities they serve and simply want to be able to do their job from day to day. We need to see a step change in how the PSNI treats abstraction and monitors the impact it has in terms of policing outcomes and patterns of crime in affected areas.
Just a few months ago, we were told that neighbourhood policing would be protected from cost-cutting measures. Now we are told that the financial situation is so dire that even this approach is not sustainable.
Like other frontline services, policing has been pushed to the brink as a result of chronic underfunding by the Government. In the last twelve years, there has been a 3% growth in the policing and justice budget compared to 70% and 45% for health and education respectively.
This is not a question of political will. Nor will it be resolved by better financial management alone. Only the Treasury has the financial firepower to deliver the additional resources that the PSNI requires in order to meet the needs of our entire community. If the Secretary of State genuinely cares about our Province, he will not be a bystander as the people of Northern Ireland are subjected to neighbourhood policing in name only.’’