PSNI to award medal to staff with three years' service
The PSNI is planning to award a medal to all staff who have served three or more years, the BBC has learned.
It is to mark the first 10 years of the service.
It will also be presented to the next of kin of those who have died in the course of duty. For the first time, support staff will also be eligible for such an honour.
It is thought the total cost of awarding the medals to all PSNI staff who qualify will be about £320,000.
This is expected to be met within existing budgets.
Policing board members, who unanimously backed the project, have said they were told it would cost £50,000.
It is understood the proposal has the personal backing of Chief Constable Matt Baggott, and has been endorsed by members of the Policing Board.
A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed the plans had been submitted to the Department of Justice for consideration.
Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said: "The idea that it would cost £320,000 or £300,000 or £350,000 did not come up.
"We were told it was within the budget of the PSNI themselves.
"I've already raised this with the Policing Board this morning and I intend to raise it again - I think it is a great difficulty."
Ross Hussey is an UUP MLA and Policing Board member.Acknowledgement
He is also a former RUC reservist who received a number of medals during his service.
"It meant a lot to me, it meant my service was appreciated, it meant my service was acknowledged and I'm very proud to have those medals," he said.
"In real terms, £300,000 is a small figure in the police budget and when we consider we're talking possibly, 9,000 or 10,000 medals, it's not that big a cost.
"The PSNI are working in unique circumstances within the UK, they're facing a terrorist threat daily, so I personally think to acknowledge that service by the award of a medal is really not too much to expect from the country that you're working for."
Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said it was hard to justify the cost.'Inappropriate'
"There's no denying the level of transformation that has occurred in policing over the last 10 years," she said.
"I think that has been widely recognised across the world, but at this time of recession, at a time when the chief constable is seeking additional resources and he has made it quite clear that there are financial difficulties facing the police budget, I think it's quite inappropriate, especially when people are experiencing a reduction in neighbourhood policing across their communities.
"So it will cause quite a number of eyebrows to be raised at this suggestion."
The SDLP MLA is a former public sector worker.
"I would like to understand some of the rationale about awarding the medal," she added.
"By and large medals, or recognition of public service, is done after 10, 15, 25 years, so other public sector workers, some of whom actually also risk their lives, will wonder why the police are getting special treatment."
The DUP's Jonathan Craig said: "The DUP supports the principle of a medal, with full royal protocols, to recognise those who have served 10 years since the creation of the PSNI.
"However, given that the cost for the medal would be five times the projected figure, it is time for the plan to be amended.
"It is also suggested that the criteria for receiving the medal could mean those who served for as little as one or two years would qualify. Such criteria would actually be unfair and would devalue the medal.
"The financial implications of this proposal are significant in the context of stretched policing resources."