COMMUNITY policing must not suffer as a result of the closure of Brownlow police station, according to local MLAs.
A review of police stations in E District has led to a formal proposal for the closure and disposal of Brownlow, Dromore and Keady Police Stations.
It has been made by E District commander, Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson, following a period of review and consultation with the community and its representatives.
The recommendations, once approved by the Police Service Senior Executive Team, will be taken to the Northern Ireland Policing Board by Assistant Chief Constable, Dave Jones for the Board’s information and decision on disposal.
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly commented: “Brownlow Police Station has effectively been operating on a part-time basis for a very long time.
“It’s a big turnaround. It was once proposed that Brownlow Police Station would be the centre of police operations in the area.”
The MLA said she hoped the money saved on building costs could be used to strengthen community policing.
She added: “I never get too hung up on buildings.
“If police maintain confidence in the community in terms of the prevention of crime and people feel safe in their own homes I don’t think it matters what station they come from.
“It’s important that response times do not suffer.”
DUP MLA Stephen Moutray said his party had been lobbying to prevent the closure of Brownlow station.
He said: “We are conscious not only of the level of dissident activity, but also the social problems in the area. For those reasons we made representations against the closure.
“The police have made their own decision and now we will be seeking assurances there will be an adequate level of provision and a rentention of the service that has been given to the community.”
Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson explained the reasons behind the formal proposal: “In Northern Ireland we have a pattern of police stations unlike any other part of the United Kingdom.
“The current police estate remains 70% bigger in comparison to other UK police services of comparable size. It reflects the demands of a very different era in policing.
“Our aim is that policing should be a part of the local community. However, underused buildings will not achieve this, investment in police officers and staff working in the local community will.
“Our Neighbourhood Policing Teams are working with their local communities, identifying and working to resolve the issues which matter the most to local people.”
Mr Robinson said fewer people are visiting or using police stations because of improved means of communication.
He added: “The introduction of BlackBerry smartphones has also reduced the need for officers to return to a police station to complete administrative tasks.
“This has already increased the amount of patrol time per officer per shift by over an hour and a half, which they spend on the street in the community they serve.
“I assure you that a decision to recommend the closure of a station is not taken lightly. I can understand that some may take comfort in having a police station nearby.
“However, modern policing is about people, not buildings.”