Sir Jeffrey - " political considerations should not direct operational decisions"

DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP and Deputy Leader Gavin Robinson MP have reiterated the need for the PSNI to repair relations with the unionist community after meeting Jon Boutcher for the first time since his appointment as permanent Chief Constable.

Commenting, Sir Jeffrey said:

‘‘Jon Boutcher brings a wealth of experience to his new role and will no doubt seek to put his own stamp on local policing in the coming days. I assured him of the Democratic Unionist Party’s support as he seeks to restore public confidence in the Service and boost morale among his own officers.

In charting a course ahead, there needs to be recognition of how we got here. I reminded the Chief Constable that a fair and representative police service in Northern Ireland will be one where political considerations do not direct operational decisions.

Checks and balances must be put in place to ensure Sinn Fein’s sway over those in the senior ranks can never be repeated. Ultimately the words of every political party and each political representative should carry equal weight and the rule of law must be enforced without fear of favour in every community.

I do not underestimate the scale of the task facing Jon Boutcher. The current operational pressures are unprecedented. There is already an estimated £45m black hole in this year’s policing budget. The number of PSNI officers is rapidly declining and those who remain are being asked to do more with less support and without a clear guarantee over future pay. We simply cannot tolerate this. It is wrong, for example, that a significant number of police vehicles are currently out of action because there are insufficient funds to make repairs.

There is no doubt that costs flowing from the industrial-scale data breach in August will compound these pressures and moving forward there can be no repeat of the own goals that have undermined confidence in the Service. However we must not lose sight of the central problem. The policing budget in Northern Ireland has been underfunded for more than a decade - a symptom of the failure by the Treasury to provide baseline budgets that meet assessed need in our Province. We only have to look at the tens of thousands of new officers recruited in England and Wales to see the inequality.

Unless the Government moves to address this crisis, policing in Northern Ireland will continue to be on the defensive while crime becomes increasingly sophisticated. If the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is genuinely committed to ensuring our communities benefit from a fair, effective and efficient Police Service, it is high time he gave the PSNI the tools to do so.’’

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