Cops in the north west have taken home almost £13million in overtime payments in just three years, the ‘Journal’ can today reveal.
PSNI figures, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, show overtime costs in G District - an area that covers Derry, Strabane, Limavady and Magherafelt - have soared from £3.3million in 2010 to just over £4.6million in 2012.
A PSNI spokeswoman said overtime budgets are “constantly reviewed” and are “a flexible way to manage increases in demand for officers required for specific policing operations designed to tackle criminal activity”.
In January the Vice-Chairman of the NI Police Federation warned British MPs that the PSNI in Derry uses an unsustainable level of overtime hours to provide adequate policing.
Mark Lindsay told the Northern Ireland Select Committee at Westminster the “hole that is left by insufficient police numbers is being filled by overtime”.
He said: “Some districts such as North and West Belfast, Londonderry and along the border counties have that surge all the time. Those officers sooner or later are going to be burnt out. You cannot sustain an extra 100 hours per month across the year.”
The PSNI spokeswoman said the use of overtime is necessary to deal with both criminality and the ongoing “terrorist threat”.
“Additional resources can be allocated to specific areas of business at any given time and to allow this to happen districts operate an overtime budget, which is managed closely,” she said.
“The threat level remains at ‘severe’ in Northern Ireland and this primarily places an extra demand on police resources in G District for frequent operations to counter the terrorist threat and attacks.
“These operations have resulted in seizures of explosive devices, firearms, ammunition and drugs. Police have made arrests and thwarted further attacks across the District.
The spokeswoman added: “Increased demand for resources is also linked to managing public safety at large events such as the Olympic Torch Run, VIP visits and concerts. These budgets are constantly reviewed to provide the best possible policing service.”
The figures obtained by the ‘Journal’ reveal that between 2010 and 2012 a total of £12.6million was spent on PSNI overtime payments - a figure that could have funded an extra 180 new officers on a starting salary of £23k.
Last year constables in G District accrued more than 272,000 overtime hours.
The total overtime spending in 2010 stood at £3.35million, rising to £4.55million in 2011 and £4.67million last year.