How £80million funding shortfall will shrink PSNI, reduce number of officers and detectives

Northern Ireland's police chief has warned the force will shrink to its lowest levels since the PSNI was founded because of an £80million funding shortfall.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne said there will be fewer officers and slower response times to calls, in a briefing to officers and staff on Thursday.

He also said there will be fewer vehicles and postponed building maintenance as a result of the cuts.

He warned that the funding deficit means that the organisation will fall short of the commitments it made in New Decade New Approach.

The PSNI also said that it anticipated further shortfalls in funding in the years ahead.

Will police officers lose their jobs?

Mr Byrne has reassured people that there are no planned redundancies.

However he also said that by March this year there will be 309 fewer officers and 115 fewer other members of staff.

The PSNI has seen a freeze on the recruitment of new officers in recent months. It is possible that there are insufficient new members of staff to replace those being lost.

What areas of policing will have reduced staffing levels?

Multiple areas of policing will be impacted by the cuts. By March there will be:

  • 75 fewer neighbourhood police officers

  • 96 fewer detectives investigating murder, terrorism, drugs and organised crime

  • 97 fewer offices in the Operational support department, which includes Roads policing and specialist search and public order teams

Does this mean 999 calls will not be responded to?

Mr Byrne said that police will protect core emergency services, such as responding to incidents.

However, non-emergency calls could face longer wait times as a result of the lack of funding.

How have PSNI staff reacted to the news?

The Police Federation, which represents and advocates for police officers, has pushed back against the planned reductions in staffing and service.

Chairperson Liam Kelly has called for an all-out campaign to fight cuts that he described as "draconian".

Mr Kelly said that "resilience", "ability to fight crime and counter the actions of terrorists" will be negatively impacted by the cuts.

He called on political leaders to organise and send a "strong message to government".

What has the political reaction been?

The DUP's lead policing board representative Trevor Clarke said that "today is a bad day for law and order in Northern Ireland."

He blamed the cuts on the NIO and the Department of Justice ignoring the warnings of the PSNI.

He said that his party will "be pressing the secretary of State to right this wrong" and called for decisive action.

Mark H Durkan, the SDLP's policing board member said that the cuts threatened the reform of policing - a "major achievement of the last 25 years".

He added that the cuts "confirms both the urgency of the restoration of government in Belfast and a big change of approach from London."

Mike Nesbitt of the UUP also said that cuts "highlights the importance of restoring devolution."

He praised the PSNI for continuing to make NI "one of the safest regions in the UK", but called for urgent action "to restore police morale."

As of Thursday afternoon, Sinn Féin had not released an official statement in response to the cuts.

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