PSNI chief believes workload contributed to officer taking their own life

Coronavirus Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Northern Ireland’s police chief has said he believes that workload recently contributed to an officer taking their own life.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Jon Boutcher outlined his concern at having just 6,300 officers, well short of the recommended 7,500, amid growing demands.

He said the additional workload includes taking 500 calls a month for the Ambulance Service.

Mr Boutcher described policing as being in a “really tough place” and said the PSNI is being left behind other police forces in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland in terms of budget increases, adding those forces did not have to contend with the additional security threat faced by officers in the region.

On the day the Stormont budget was unveiled, Mr Boutcher also expressed concern that further funding which is needed would not be forthcoming.

PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher called for more funding Credit: PA

Appearing at the Assembly’s justice committee, Mr Boutcher said he is often challenged at the Northern Ireland Policing Board about having the highest sickness levels in the UK in terms of police forces.

He said that is a “direct correlation” to levels of demand and workload, describing much of the sickness as “simply tiredness, exhaustion and stress” due to the nature of the caseload that officers are carrying.

“Only in the last couple of weeks, I’m very sad to report that we had an officer – and the consequence of this for the health of this organisation, the PSNI, worries me significantly – an officer has taken his own life,” he told MLAs.

“I think that some of that is because of the amount of responsibility and workload on people who care so much about their jobs. They don’t want to not be able to do the job that they joined the organisation to do and, because of the thinnest of blue lines that we now are in effect, it’s having a more and more detrimental effect on the health of the organisation.

“It’s not good, and I think we need to collectively through this committee, through the Policing Board – I welcome the Justice Minister’s support in trying to address this – arrest this decline and give the PSNI the resources that they need to do the job that needs to be done in Northern Ireland in the same way that every other policing organisation is being provided with that sort of funding to do their core function, as well as this broader demand that we’re now asked to do.

“That’s the reality of where we are.”

Committee chairwoman Joanne Bunting said MLAs would like to extend their condolences to the officer’s family and colleagues.

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