The NIO is currently recommending that the PSNI be reduced to a force of around 6,000 officers. This would be down from a high 13,500 during the worst of times; it is also less than the 7,500 recommended by the Patten Report. This reflects the ‘normalisation’ agenda. Ironically enough, this move has been approved by none other than former RUC Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan. The Police Federation is not too happy about this, using the spectre of dissident republicans to barter for retaining more jobs. Ooops. Probably not the best argument to make prior to Sinn Fein’s Ard Fheis.Sinn Fein is making their pitch based on the idea that the PSNI will be doing “civic policing” and not “political policing”. If an example was needed to make a nonsense of the idea that the police won’t be involved in politics, the Policing Federations’ argument about the numbers of PSNI members is a good one:
But Police Federation chairman Terry Spence warned that the proposal could possibly reduce the level of service to the public to one which is “dangerously unacceptable”.
He said: “The current threats to officers from dissident republicans creates an unacceptable security environment – as recent warnings about personal threats and reports of attempts to murder officers from headquarters have been made clear.”
The DUP and the UUP don’t even attempt to make a distinction between “civic” and “political” policing – they naturally assume it’s all one and the same.
DUP Policing Board member Ian Paisley Jnr said the recommendations showed no regard for the current situation in Northern Ireland.
“This has no connection with the situation on the ground. The current threat against regular officers from dissidents and others remains immense,” he said.
“The claim by the NIO that such a reduction of the police by 20 per cent would still keep the PSNI ahead of the rest of the UK by 30 per cent takes no account of the fact that the people in the rest of the UK are highly dissatisfied by the current number of police officers there.”
Ulster Unionist Fred Cobain also called for the number of PSNI officers not to be cut. “We are continuing to fight to keep the numbers up because there are big issues in Northern Ireland, not only with paramilitaries and social disturbance but geographically it’s a huge area to police for only 1.6 million people,” said the MLA.
So with the Policing Federation, the DUP, and the UUP all expecting the PSNI to be the ones to “police the peace” so to speak, and with dissident republicans high on the agenda of the PSNI’s to-do list, the questions about what Sinn Fein will be doing and advocating in regards to republicans and republican activity after they endorse the PSNI is a pertinent one. What will their attitude towards republican resistance become? “Crime is crime is crime, it is not political, it is crime”?