Terry Spence was featured on Radio 4’s Saturday PM news show and he aired some serious concerns about the ability of the Police Service of Northern to hold the peace in the context of continuing violence.
His concerns were not about the manner in which the police have been confronting the rising violence, but about the ability of the police going forward in terms of numbers and resources to deal with the growing two-pronged threat profile.
He noted that over the last 4 weeks since the flags decision the police have been under huge strain. 70 police officers have been injured and many of them have required hospital treatment.
As we look forward it isn’t hard to imagine that the casualty list will grow. And with the news that gun shots were fired over the weekend it certainly isn’t hard to imagine that a serving officer or civilian could be killed.
Stuck in a nutcracker situation between growing violence from dissident republicans and unionist paramilitaries the police are unquestionably under immense pressure.
In this context the chairman of the Police Federation said on BBC Radio 4:
“There is an obligation on the state and the Chief Constable to ensure that the police service are properly resourced. It is the firm belief of my organisation that that is not the case.”
“We need more human resources. We need more young men and woman to join the police service. We need a recruitment campaign to be instigated forthwith. We’re already down to 7,000 police officers from a figure of 12,500 figure that we had ten years ago. We do not have the perfect peace that was envisaged in the Patten recommendations or in the Good Friday Agreement and as I stated earlier, this is the most difficult policing situation that we have faced for the last decade.”
The presenter then asked: has politics failed this most difficult situation?
Terry Spence replied:
“Some of the NI politicians haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory over all of this. By foul means or otherwise they have unfortunately enticed people to come out onto the street. People have then come out onto the street and protested. These initially peaceful protests have been exploited by paramilitary organisations. Politicians should have realised the implications of all of this because they have been around Northern Ireland long enough.”
“You may be assured there will be sufficient resources in the event of more disorder for however long is necessary.”
Unfortunately as has long been the case in Northern Ireland the police have again found themselves stuck in the middle of serious community bickerings. When politics spills from the corridors to the streets the police have to mop it up. Let’s just hope it won’t be blood they’re mopping up.