Probationary officers must be properly supported as they enter frontline policing

DUP East Belfast MLA and Policing Board representative Joanne Bunting has urged the Chief Constable to ensure that probationary officers are not only prepared but properly supported when entering frontline policing in Northern Ireland.

By Joanne Bunting MLA

Belfast East

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Commenting after Jon Boutcher briefed the Policing Board on plans to recommence recruitment from April 2024, Ms Bunting said:

‘‘I welcome the Chief Constable’s decision to restart officer recruitment in the coming months. This is absolutely essential in order to stop the decline in police officer numbers. However we cannot simply stand still. In the coming days and weeks we need to see sustainable funding arrangements for policing - in order to grow headcount to at least the 7,500 figure recommended by Patten and reiterated in NDNA.

It is worth remembering that the latest batch of recruits will enter a Police Service that is experiencing unprecedented operational pressures. Any temptation to short-circuit training must be avoided. Probationers leaving Garnerville must be adequately prepared to face real-world policing. In this sense, it is positive that there are plans to boost links between our own College and the College of Policing in England and Wales.

The Scoffield judgement raised serious questions around advocacy for less experienced officers and those issues must be addressed. The Senior Command of the PSNI must also have their back.

I am encouraged by the Chief Constable’s commitment to building a workplace where officers at every level in the organisation are encouraged to put their hand up if they are struggling. ACC Singleton also raised the potential to consolidate probationary support officers within neighbourhood teams. These are the sort of measures that are critical to ensuring those who have demonstrated a desire to serve their community and run towards danger can succeed from day one.’’

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