Covid impact highlights importance of ensuring Police numbers meet Patten recommendation

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Covid impact highlights importance of ensuring Police numbers meet Patten recommendation

The Ulster Unionist Party’s North Down MLA, Alan Chambers, has called for Police numbers to be increased to 7,500 as recommended by the Patten Report. As of 01 January 2022, the Police have 7,012 officers. This is almost 500 short and data supplied to Mr Chambers by the Department of Justice indicates that hundreds more officers have been absent from duty as a result of Covid, placing an even greater strain on the PSNI.  

Alan Chambers said:

“I recently submitted a written question to the Justice Minister asking for her assessment of how sickness absence due to COVID-19, is currently impacting on the performance of the PSNI; and to detail how many officers have been absent from duty in each of the last four weeks due to Covid-19.

“In her reply (see attached) the Minister stated, “That the high transmission rate of COVID-19 Omicron variant and significant community infection rates across Northern Ireland has affected the PSNI in common with all public services. The PSNI has advised that in each of the last four weeks respectively 381, 555, 577 and 447 police officers were absent from duty due to COVID-19.”

“As a former RUC Reservist, I know how challenging policing can be. I can say with certainty that all of us in Northern Ireland are extremely fortunate to have an organisation such as the PSNI. Not only do they normally have to carry out their duties in complicated circumstances, but the extra pressure of COVID-19 has created even more difficult challenges. For this, I congratulate all members of the PSNI for their good work.

“I understand that all public services have been, and will be affected by COVID-19, but the PSNI provides an extremely vital service to all members of Northern Ireland. It is paramount to the safety of the public and the order of society that the PSNI can at any time carry out its role to the best of its ability.

“It is obviously essential that the PSNI has sufficient personnel available to deliver the service that we as a society both expect and demand, and that is why I repeat my endorsement of the recommendation made by the Patten report that the PSNI should have around 7,500 regular officers.

“Currently the PSNI has 7,012 regular officers. This has been consistently highlighted by my party colleague Mike Nesbitt MLA, who sits on the NI Policing Board. An additional 500 officers would enable the PSNI to deal with emergencies in an effective manner and also allow officers to carry out their roles safely, lowering the level of stress that our officers face. We must do all that we can to not only guarantee that the PSNI is an effective service, but also establish a safe working environment for those serving in the PSNI.”