Alex Maskey: “I find it truly disrespectful that he decided to make the announcement at a public session…”

I didn’t see any immediate reaction from Sinn Féin to the Chief Constable’s announcement on Thursday that 150 officers would be redeployed to guard police stations in light of the increased threat from republican paramilitary groups.

But Matt Baggott’s reported comments at Saturday’s UUP conference – that the reductions in police numbers from 13,000 to 7,000 was done too quickly – appear to have struck a nerve.

The BBC reports that Sinn Féin MLA, and Northern Ireland Policing Board member, Alex Maskey, “has disagreed with the chief constable’s assessment that police numbers were reduced too quickly following the paramilitary ceasefires”.

“The police service is a sizeable organisation. The police have always said this to their own credit and have acknowledged that they have a lot of reform yet to complete,” [Alex Maskey] said.

“The police service has enough officers and their difficulty is that they have not yet managed how best to use their personnel.”

And in his released statement the Sinn Féin MLA took the opportunity to criticise the previous announcement

Speaking this evening Mr Maskey said;

“Firstly I would remind Matt Baggott that it is his job to implement the necessary changes which were required to policing here and secured under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“The notion that moving 150 officers from frontline duty, out of communities and into guarding stations is madness.

“It is particularly unacceptable when you consider Matt Baggott made the commitment to get 600 officers back on the ground dealing with the issues people are truly concerned about, crime and community safety.

“I find it truly disrespectful that he decided to make the announcement at a public session of the Policing Board without consulting members first.”

Well, it is an operational decision.  And it’s not as if Matt Baggott hadn’t already proposed an alternative.  But you wanted a private briefing first…