Northern Ireland Police Federation calls for more officers

Injured police officer on the ground during loyalist protest in Belfast 130 police officers were injured in Northern Ireland during the summer

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The Police Federation of Northern Ireland has renewed calls for 1,000 extra officers to be recruited to the PSNI.

Following this summer's violence in Belfast, the federation has written to the chief constable warning that the police service is under-resourced.

New figures show that 350 officers have been injured in the past year, many of them during the past two months.

It is not the first time the federation has called for extra officers.

But after a summer plagued by street violence, with more than 130 police officers injured, the federation has written again to Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

The point they make is that the problems which exist at the moment are unlikely to change any time soon.

Tensions over parades are still unresolved and the threat to police from dissident republicans remains high.

Terry Spence, the chairman of the Police Federation, said he wrote to the chief constable as a result of "the deep concerns that have been expressed to me personally by officers who have been on the ground and have been out there dealing with this serious public disorder".

He added: "I could see with my own eyes when I was out there as well that they were fatigued and that they were suffering burn-out.

"This has been going on now for 18 months and there is no sign of it abating."

Asked if he was exaggerating, he responded: "I'm exaggerating nothing. The state and the chief constable and the secretary of state have a specific obligation to make sure that we are properly resourced - and we are not properly resourced."

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said it was an important issue for the police.

"Our police officers stand on the line with us on Royal Avenue, Woodvale Road or any part of Belfast, stand between both communities, stand to uphold Parades Commission determinations and we end up with hundreds injured as a result of that - it simply isn't good enough," he said.

"Terry is quite right to raise that issue.

"The broader and the longer-term debate about the number of police officers is a choice for the Northern Ireland public purse."

In a statement, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said the chief constable, as accounting officer for the organisation, was "responsible for managing resourcing within our current budget".

"The Police Service of Northern Ireland is accountable to the Policing Board in relation to finances, and discussions with the board and the Department of Justice are ongoing with regard to resilience, recruitment and affordability," it said.

The Department of Justice said the Justice Minister, David Ford, "meets on a regular basis with the Chief Constable and the issue of resourcing is regularly reviewed".

The PSNI is expected to start recruiting again before the end of this year. But rather than 1,000 extra officers, the figure is more likely to be 100.

Parades

The 350 officers hurt in the past 12 months include:

  • 65 injured when violence flared in north Belfast last September
  • 150 hurt during loyalist flag protests
  • 70 injured over the Twelfth period
  • 56 hurt on Belfast's Royal Avenue earlier this month

While many were not seriously hurt, others are still off work with broken bones, as a result of being hit with bricks or large stones.

Officers have sustained broken legs, arms and elbows. Some have been knocked unconscious, others have lost teeth.

Earlier this month, the Police Federation - which represents rank and file officers - called for all contentious parades in Northern Ireland to be stopped for six months.

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