Northern Ireland

PSNI to trial single officer patrols

Police have traditionally patrolled in pairs for safety and security reasons
Police have traditionally patrolled in pairs for safety and security reasons

The PSNI is trialling the deployment of unaccompanied officers on the beat, the chief constable has said.

Officers have traditionally patrolled in pairs for safety and security reasons.

Simon Byrne said a medium-term objective for the organisation was to have more single officer patrols.

Mr Byrne acknowledged that in certain areas and circumstances the security situation would continue to require double crew patrols.

The police chief said the trial was part of plans to change the policing style in the north.

He was speaking at the publication of the findings of a major consultation exercise that sought the public's views on how the PSNI should focus its resources going forward.

The Local Policing Review 2018 was a joint exercise involving the PSNI and Policing Board.

The consultation found that people were more concerned about local policing issues, such as speeding, than the threat posed by paramilitaries.

Mr Byrne said it was important that officers felt confident enough to patrol on their own.

"Obviously we operate in a severe terrorist threat so that has to be in the back of my mind when I ask officers to go about their daily business," he said.

"We have begun a trial of single officer patrols at a small scale in some parts of the country to see, a, we've got to bring officers with us to see that they're confident in doing this and, b, if there's support from the public, because it makes us able to spread the load, as it were.

"We'll see where, consistent with the environment we police, we can do that.

"You can imagine that times absolutely we need to put officers in pairs, or indeed in other deployments, to deal with what they might face.

"But, if we're going to change the style, get out of cars, frankly, where we can, to patrol the beat in a traditional way, and get out on bikes, because I think it's a good icebreaker, that's part of the medium-term plan to change the policing style for Northern Ireland."

A total of 4,328 individuals responded to an online simulator that allowed people to identify their policing priorities and more than 3,000 people attended one of the 87 regional consultation meetings.

An independent analysis of the feedback received was conducted by Ulster University and six priority headline actions were identified in the consultation.

The headline actions were: visibility; neighbourhood policing; vulnerability and mental health; call handling; collaboration and multi-agency working; and competing policing demand.

Commenting on the publication, Policing Board chair Professor Anne Connolly said: "We were hugely encouraged by the willingness of people and organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors to engage with us during the consultation and the feedback received reinforced for us the importance of policing in our community.

"The findings of the consultation will now inform the Northern Ireland Policing Plan and Local Policing Plans moving forward.

"We want to see the best possible policing service for the community and hope that the actions now being taken forward provide assurance of our commitment to that."