MORE than 900 police officers have left the PSNI since April 2010 it has emerged.
With the PSNI recently completing a high profile recruitment drive for 100 new officers for the first time in almost three-and-a-half years, the Tyrone Herald has learned, through a Freedom of Information request, that 81 officers have already left since April this year, with another 112 expected to leave by the end of the 2013/14 financial year.
It means that between April 2010 and March 2014, the PSNI will have lost 1,029 officers. In the post 50-50 recruitment era, it was the PSNI’s appeal last month for young Catholics in Tyrone to consider joining up in a bid to tackle under-representation that caused the most controversy.
But according to the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI), the real issue facing the police service is the steadily declining numbers which is putting unsustainable pressure on districts across the north, including Tyrone, where officers are being forced to work longer shifts on a quicker turn around. The total number of PSNI officers now stands at just over 6,800 and the Police Federation are predicting another 1,200 could leave the PSNI in the next few years.
“Our concern is that we reckon that another 1,200 officers or so can leave over the next couple of years. There is a danger that the strength of the force will be closer to 6,000 than the 7,000 that the Chief Constable is trying to maintain,” said a PFNI spokesman.
“Officers are having to work excessive overtime, it’s not good policing and it’s not good for police moral or for police family life. It can’t be a long-term answer to the severe shortage of resources.”
Demand for positions within the PSNI is not the problem. In the region of 3,500 applications have already been received for the 100 posts advertised last month and the PSNI has said it hopes to appoint up to 378 additional officers in 2014/15.
But police chiefs are conceding that those new recruits are completely down to additional funding. It’s estimated that every 100 new police officers cost in the region of £5m per year. Given the fact police officers can’t be made redundant, funding must be secured in the long-term.
Nonetheless, the Police Federation is demanding that the PSNI needs at least 1,000 new officers, pointing to the 1,000 mutual aid officers sourced from Britain in the summer to manage trouble linked to parading.
The PSNI’s last recruitment drive ended in early 2010, with the last passing out parade for new recruits in March 2011. During that 12 month period, 540 left the PSNI, the bulk of which are believed to be the last batch to avail of the lucrative Patten severance package for former RUC officers.
In 2011/12 a total of 110 officers from the rank of constable right up to Chief Constable left. In 2012/13 the number was 186 and by the end of 2013/14, 193 are expected to have left.
The PFNI have said Matt Baggott is struggling to get the message to Treasury and to the Executive. “The Chief Constable is campaigning with the Executive and the Treasury saying ‘you need to make more money available’,” said a spokesperson.
He warned that if the funding isn’t maintained to address the dissident threat, the danger exists that a campaign may spread to Britain once again.
“We need to waken up to what is happening here. We have a very volatile public order situation, we have the threat from dissident republicans, we have people looking to leave over the next couple of years and the only guarantee we have is that we are getting 100 more officers.”
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