PSNI chief appeals for outstanding funding and Brexit clarity

Northern Ireland’s top police officer has appealed for outstanding funding of £4.5 million from Stormont as well as clarity around arrangements ahead of Brexit.

The final terms around the end of the transition period in December remain unclear, with the Internal Market Bill potentially set to over-ride the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland.

Simon Byrne said with the end of the transition period just a few months away, there are concerns about how they can track people and how to move information around to keep communities safe.

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PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne (Liam McBurney/PA)

“The analogy I’d like to try and draw upon is that rather than things heading towards a cliff, it’s imagining you’re going back in time … moving from wifi to a modem,” he told the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

“In effect you’ll still have some connectivity, it’ll just take a lot longer. And that’s our assessment of our worst case at the moment.

“We would welcome your support for securing the outstanding money from the Department of Justice to police the Brexit challenge. We’re still four and a half million light on what was committed. We can absorb that pressure in the short term but clarity of what that means for us in the weeks ahead would be welcome.”

Mr Byrne said the planning assumption made by the PSNI in recent weeks is that “effectively the border is shifting from the Irish Sea back to the land border”, which he described as “well rehearsed” in terms of policing challenges.

“It’s the long-term effects – if that’s where we end up – in terms of how we preserve normality and community as well as economic life both in Northern Ireland as a whole but also particularly in that part of the country,” he told the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

“It links to the broader funding question of the 7,500 officers because I think what we hear from communities in that part of the country is that neighbourhood policing and having that local trusted presence is actually part of giving people reassurance that we can manage any changes in the path of crime as well as keeping the free flow of traffic on the border as normal as possible.”

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton has become the gold commander for Brexit.

He said there is a “lack of clarity” around what the arrangements at Belfast, Larne and Warrenpoint ports will be.

“We are waiting to see what those arrangements are going to be, but in the meantime we are contingency planning around that,” he said, adding that in the long term they are trying to understand what compliance arrangements will be needed in other areas, such as movement across the Irish border.

Meanwhile, Mr Byrne said the PSNI bid to the Department of Justice for funding to boost officer numbers to 7,500, digital policing and investment in estate has been progressed to a business case.

“That doesn’t mean we have got the money but it is a positive sign that we’re able to move into the bureaucracy to see where the Government can invest in policing.”

Meanwhile Mr Byrne also told board members that the PSNI will shortly embark upon the trial of a new uniform.

“You’ll see a number of options when we bring that down in a couple of weeks’ time,” he said.

“It will be rolled out at six sites across the country for roughly three months so we test both durability and officer and public reaction.”

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