Changes to District Policing in Northern Ireland

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Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Community, Politics
Policing in Northern Ireland is facing its biggest shake-up in years as a result of significant budget pressures combined with a requirement to align with new Council structures by April 1st. Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin, the senior officer responsible for District Policing, outlined the new structure. “The new District Councils come into existence on 1st April 2015, and I have been charged with shaping our front line service delivery so that our District Command boundaries mirror those councils. “Some key decisions have already been taken in relation to the new policing structure and how it will function. Senior officers have now been appointed to deliver policing within Northern Ireland’s communities and their core purpose will be to continue to ‘Keep People Safe’ through the ethos of Policing with the Community. “We will move from the existing seven policing Districts to 11. However we are making this change at a time of continuing budget cuts and so we cannot simply replicate our existing District structures taking into account our reducing resources,” he insisted. “While leaner and more streamlined the new 11 Districts will focus on local priorities under the leadership of a District Commander. The Districts will be supported by an Area co-ordinating tier covering Belfast and Northern and Southern parts of Northern Ireland. Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said this will provide additional resources to help deal with local priorities and emerging threat, risk and harm issues. They will have the ability to muster and move resources to where the need is greatest on a daily basis. “This structure will allow us to use officers and staff more flexibly and ensure we keep people safe across all our Districts as well as providing local accountability and effective partnership working. “Our aim is to ensure that our service to all communities in Northern Ireland is fit for purpose and sustainable while still delivering savings. This year we had to cut over £38m from our budget and next year’s reductions will also be in the region of £40m “I would urge the public to understand that there must be changes in the way that policing services are delivered as we continue to restructure. The impact of the budget cuts will not be felt on District policing alone; it will be right across the full spectrum of policing. “The 11 District Commanders have been appointed across Northern Ireland. Superintendent Simon Walls will be District Commander for Newry, Mourne & Down Area.” According to Assistant Chief Constable Martin, Walls will be responsible for all aspects of local policing and setting Newry, Mourne & Down Area’s policing priorities along with the Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP). Superintendent Walls will take up his new post with effect from 16 February 2015 in order to help shape and design policing in the new District. Newry, Mourne & Down Area is within the Southern Area co-ordinating tier which will be led by Chief Superintendent Pauline Shields in her new role as Area Co-ordinator. “We are still in the process of finalising details on the exact structure of front line service delivery but it’s been decided that response teams will no longer exist. Instead there will be a mixture of 25 Local Policing Teams (LPTs) and over 30 Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs) across Northern Ireland as well as local detectives in each District,” Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin explained. “We recognise this represents a reduction to the current number of NPTs across Northern Ireland, however the LPTs are an exciting development. They will not just attend calls but actually start to develop a greater sense of ownership of the area and the problems within it. “They will build up an enhanced knowledge through engagement with community representatives, local clergy, principals of schools and other key figures. The LPTs will be multi-functional and deliver core policing on a daily basis as well as find solutions to problems in a much more Policing with the Community style than the previous response teams. He added, “During this time of change I would like to reassure the public that policing remains a 24 hour, seven days a week operation and we will be there at people’s time of need. We can be contacted 24 hours a day on either 101 or for emergencies on 999. All normal policing will carry on. We will patrol in vehicles and on foot, carry out searches, arrest criminals and the public will continue to see police on a daily basis.”

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