East Belfast Alliance Councillor and member of Belfast Policing Partnership Board, Naomi Long, has described the SDLP’s demands on policing as “dangerous hype” and “very unhelpful”. Cllr Long slammed comments by SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood, which among other measures called for the closure of Knocknagoney Police Station and a reduction in the number of posts at Stormont.
Cllr Long stated, “Operational decisions should be based on the Chief Constable’s security assessment, and not SDLP electioneering. The SDLP, and Mr Attwood in particular, are playing a hard-line nationalist card in the run-up to the May election and it is hard to see how this blatant political hijacking of the policing issue can do anything to build confidence across the community.
“It has been known for some time that a number of stations may have to close, but these decisions must be taken because the Chief Constable has decided that it is an effective way to get officers back on the streets and be based upon his assessment of the level of threat – not because the SDLP has demanded it.”
Cllr Long continued, “Highlighting specific stations, particularly in areas such as East Belfast where the SDLP has no credible presence, does nothing to build confidence across the community particularly on such a sensitive issue.”
“In my own area just last week, a bomb was planted outside government offices at Stormont, which would suggest that the threat to civil servants and residents in East Belfast is very real. Yet today the SDLP are calling for reductions in the policing posts linked to guarding these offices.”
“If Mr Attwood is really serious about getting police numbers up to the level recommended by Patten, then the SDLP must address the fact that rigid 50:50 quotas are preventing, not helping, this from happening. Mr Attwood has recently conceded that he is not concerned that quotas are not applied for the recruitment of part-time officers.”
“If they want to address the staffing pressures faced by the PSNI, rather than just using policing for electioneering purposes, perhaps they could also now join with Alliance in calling for an end to quotas altogether and allow officers, civilian support and traffic wardens to be recruited on merit alone.”