Police ‘acting as shock absorbers for society’ - Byrne

Simon Byrne took up the post of chief constable earlier this year. Credit: UTV

The chief constable has said the lack of an Executive at Stormont is creating a vacuum, with police acting as the shock absorbers for society.

Simon Byrne was speaking just days after his officers narrowly avoided injury in a bomb blast in Co Fermanagh.

Dissident republicans were blamed after a device exploded at Wattle Bridge, close to Newtownbutler on Monday morning.

In the wake of the attack, Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin called for political leadership to move things forward.

Northern Ireland has been without a power-sharing government since 2017.

“The lack of an Executive creates a vacuum where we end up pickling up the failures of other organisations and we become the shock absorbers of society,” Mr Byrne told UTV.

“That’s got to change. I’m not here to meddle in politics or tell politicians what to do, I’ve got to remain impartial.

“The job of my officers and staff is to deal with day to day policing issues and keep people safe, but we need leadership to help me know where to go to, to work out who’s in charge and who can make decisions to prevent some of the issues we’ve seen in recent weeks.”

Simon Byrne said he would like to see the recruitment of more officers to the PSNI.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he plans to hire an extra 20,000 officers by 2022 in England and Wales.

“My appeal is that I do need more officers to police not just the streets but to deal with the changing nature of crime,” said the chief constable.

“If you go back to Patten the figure was 7,500 officers, we’re way below that at the moment.”