FORMER home affairs ministers have slammed the decision to hire in off-Island police officers.

It was announced this week a team of five Merseyside detectives and a civilian has been drafted in to probe an outstanding case because resources have been stretched by 'unprecedented demands'.

Seven West Midlands uniformed constables are expected to arrive in July to spend two months patrolling the streets.

Arnold Callin, who was minister from 1991 to 1995, said he would have been 'very unhappy' with the decision while his predecessor Eddie Lowey, minister from 1986 to '91, said he hopes the move isn't a 'shopping trip' which will be repeated.

Treasury Minister Allan Bell, who headed the department until after last year's general election, was off-Island this week on government business.

The force announced the decision to bring in the UK officers, at a cost of more than 100,000, claiming huge demands had left the service with no option.

A series of major investigations, including the sinking of the Solway Harvester and the alleged murders of teenagers George Green and Samantha Barton, had stretched resources.

Few details of the case the Merseyside officers are investigating have been released, although it has been confirmed it relates to the death of a young man last August.

It is the first time outside assistance has been requested for more than 20 years and was chosen in favour of cutting back on the force's commitment to high visibility foot patrols.

The move is also a result of the force's unsuccessful bid for more officers in this year's budget. It requested 11 new officers, but the DHA was given just 15 new posts for all its divisions.

The police were given two officers, both ring-fenced to the alcohol squad.

Mr Lowey said staffing problems had been raised and addressed during his time as minister he implemented a 10-year-old recommendation to boost numbers increasing the force from 180 to 220 in five years.

'I hope it's not the start of buying in as there's no substitute for home-grown police,' he said. 'I still hold to the idea that we are capable of running our own force.

'I defer to the chief constable's professionalism, but I hope this isn't a shopping trip which is going to happen again and again and again. You have got to prioritise. Like most people in most walks of life, like most departments, which have got to prioritise the police should be the same.

'In an ideal world we want it all and we want it now,' Mr Lowey added. 'I think the police force has always been treated very well and within the overall scope of the priorities of government they do very well.

'I believe that we have a good police force, but I think the chief constable who runs the police force has got to do that within the finances given to him.'

Mr Callin said: 'If I had still been minister I'd have been very unhappy to put it mildly.

'I think the first thing to determine is are the police officers they already have employed in the areas intended. There appears to me to be a lot of paper and desk work, probably more than is good for the service.

'If that could be reduced then surely that would release people from inside work to do proper policing which we are now looking outside for. When I was at Home Affairs I was given to understand that per head of population the Isle of Man was better off than any other part of the UK other than Northern Ireland. If that's still the case now one has to ask why go off-Island?

'I would argue that there is too much paperwork and too many officers involved in inside work. Police officers should be employed to work outside, not sit at a desk. I am not blaming the police. If that is what's required of them then it should be looked at.'

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