A contingency plan is in place to restrict police holiday leave in Northern Ireland following Brexit.
Only 10% of officers will be able to take time off in the first six weeks after the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union on October 31.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke described it as a “sensible operational contingency”, adding it will be kept under review.
The announcement came today following a number of previous warnings about challenges the PSNI may face following Brexit, including an uplift in dissident republican violence and potential public order situations.
“I am extremely proud of this organisation which invariably delivers in challenging circumstances, people put the community first routinely and I am very proud of them for doing that,” ACC Clarke told the PA news agency.
“Sometimes putting the community first means that we have to give of ourselves, and one of the ways that colleagues are going to experience a bit of a restriction coming out of the EU Exit is that we will be restricting annual leave from October 31 for a period of six weeks.
“We are going to restrict it to 10%, so in other words up to 10% of officers can have their leave.
“We don’t at this stage have an equivalent restriction on our staff colleagues but the key thing in that is that whilst those officers are going to lose leave, lose family time in order to serve, there is also a commitment, a promise from the Chief Constable, from myself as the operation commander that that restriction is only going to be in place for as long as it is necessary to be there.
“We will keep it under very active review and as soon as we can remove that restriction we will.”
The routine leave restriction within the PSNI is 20%.
The PSNI is set to have recruited an extra 308 officers and staff by April 2020 following a £16.5m funding boost from the British Treasury, and will also have access to mutual aid officers from across the UK if required.
Mr Clarke said he will not restrict officer’s leave needlessly and no longer than necessary,
“It may not happen, if my assessment as a commander is that I don’t need to restrict people’s leave, of course I will not do that … I won’t do it lightly and I won’t do it needlessly and I won’t do it for a second longer than is necessary,” he said.
“Nobody is doing this because they want to, they are doing it because we think it is a sensible operational contingency.”
PSNI officers have been informed of the plan.
Substantial planning for Brexit has been under way within the PSNI for more than a year.
Last month the two planning teams for the operational and legal implications of Brexit were combined to a single team led by Mr Clarke as the PSNI’s Gold Commander for EU Exit.
Mr Clarke said a lot of good quality work has been done by the PSNI in terms of planning, but cautioned there is “undoubtedly an atmosphere of uncertainty around exactly the terms on which the UK will leave the EU”, and that a range of potential scenarios have been considered.
He said as part of that work the potential of an increase in violence of dissident republicans has been considered.
“Violent dissident republicans have been in a situation of posing a severe threat for around ten years, that threat existed before Brexit was a consideration, but there is no doubt that those people may well view Brexit as being another hook on which they can potentially hang their violence activities, could potentially become a rallying cry for them,” he said.
“The reality is they pose a very severe threat to us anyway, we devote a substantial amount of effort to trying to keep the community safe and to keep our own officers safe.”