DUP North Antrim MLA and Policing Board representative Mervyn Storey has questioned the Justice Minister’s commitment to increasing police numbers in Northern Ireland after it emerged that her Department had instead encouraged the PSNI to focus on other priorities.
Commenting after receiving an update on the business case - which aims to bring the number of full-time officers to 7,500 – from the PSNI, Mr Storey said:
‘‘As the terrorist threat in Northern Ireland remains high and crime becomes more harmful and sophisticated, our focus should be on boosting the police workforce rather than resorting to a culture of cuts.
Despite rising operational pressures, the Government has shown no desire to date to date to extend EU exit funding which in recent months has allowed the PSNI to recruit more than 300 extra officers. There has also been a stark failure to deliver the New Decade New Approach commitment of increasing police numbers to 7,500 with warnings of a 'flat cash' budget.
It is clear that without intervention from the Treasury and substantive action by the Minister of Justice there is a risk that fewer police officers will be available to serve local communities come the start of the new financial year.
I am astonished to learn that the Department of Justice has effectively parked the commitment to additional officers, instead encouraging the police service to focus on other strategic business cases. This simply isn’t acceptable.
The onus lies with the Minister of Justice to make the case for, and secure, the extra funding needed to recruit these officers. Rather than blaming the financial climate or burying her head in the sand, it is time she adopted a can-do attitude to overcoming any obstacles in the way. Northern Ireland needs visible, effective and responsive policing and a Justice Minister willing to leave no stone unturned to make it happen.’’