According to BBC NI Home Affairs correspondent Vincent Kearney, at Thursday’s meeting of the NI Policing Board the Chief Constable Matt Baggot will seek endorsement of a plan to use private security firms to replace the estimated 400 PSNI officers currently providing protection for politicians, judges and other potential terrorist targets, and guarding police stations.
From the BBC report
That backing is essential because the move would require new legislation, and that will only happen if there’s cross-party support within the assembly.
Basil McCrea, the Ulster Unionist chairman of the board’s human rights committee, said mechanisms would have to be put in place to regulate the work of the private firms, but he is firmly behind the idea.
“This is the right thing to do,” he said.
“The chief constable has made his position clear and it’s driven by the need to be cost effective.
“Clearly we need to ensure that the work is properly regulated, but we don’t need fully warranted police officers to do this kind of work, they should be out on the streets.
“On that basis we will be supporting him.”
In the accompanying video reports, Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey repeatedly refers to his party’s desire for an un-armed police service. A desire which fails to take into account the level of threat… and unfulfilled expectations. From the BBC report
Policing Board member Alex Maskey said the party had fundamental concerns.
He said: “We have made the chief constable aware of our concerns.”
“Even if these people are going to be guarding stations and protecting individuals, they are going to be inter-acting with the community and we want to know how they are going to be held to account for their actions.
“At least a police officer can be held to account for his behaviour by the Policing Board, and that is a very important element in building public confidence in policing.
“We will listen to what the chief constable has to say, but in terms of getting our support for this, he has a long way to go.”
There are similarities with Afghanistan, and Iraq, but not necessarily the ones highlighted by the BBC reports…
And are Sinn Féin still threatening to withdraw their co-operation with the police?
Update According to another BBC report
On Thursday, Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey said that for the chief constable to air the matter in the public part of the meeting was “an abuse of process” and that it should have been dealt with in private session.
Adds By a “majority view”, the Policing Board have rejected the proposal.