The Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, has told members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board that uncertainty over the Police Budget will mean difficult decisions will need to be made.
On 15 February, the Finance Minister confirmed it would not be possible to agree a Draft Budget without an Executive in place with the most likely outcome being a one year rollover budget on 2021-2022 baseline.
Due to a combination of a structural deficit in the opening baseline budget, disparate funding streams and rising costs, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is likely to face a shortfall of some £59million in 2022-23.
Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “Uncertainty over our budget has made an already precarious funding situation more difficult. Importantly, our current Budget baseline does not take into account the significant in-year funding allocations which are critical to supporting the current number of police officers.
“As Chief Constable, I have a duty to ensure local communities understand the implications of the situation we find ourselves in. If our current Budget is rolled over, the Police Service faces a shortfall of £59million. In this context, it seems inevitable that we will be compelled to make some difficult decisions which will have real and lasting impacts on both service delivery and confidence in policing.”
The Chief Constable briefed Board members on a range of operational initiatives, including the flagship Operation Dealbreaker which seeks to tackle the supply of illegal drugs.
During February, detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Crime Department, working with other agencies including the Organised Crime Task Force and in partnership with HM Revenue and Customs and Belfast Harbour Police recovered a large quantity of drugs from a lorry stopped in the Belfast Harbour area. Class A and B drugs with an estimated street value of approximately £3million were recovered.
To date, the collaborative multi-agency partnership that underpins Operation Dealbreaker has seized almost £20million of illegal drugs in just 14 months. The Chief Constable told Board members that the Operation demonstrated the power of multi-agency working and that a future public health-led approach to drugs, as seen elsewhere, could be transformational.
The Chief Constable said: “Operation Dealbreaker is an excellent example of what we can achieve together by working in partnership across our society. In just over a year, we have taken nearly £20million worth of illegal drugs off our streets where they bring only misery to local communities.
“By taking a cross-societal approach, we can effectively tackle complex challenges which go beyond policing into wider public health and socio-economic issues. In other parts of the world, a public health-led approach to tackling drugs has been hugely effective and I think this approach could be transformational if taken here in Northern Ireland in the future.”