The Chief Constable of the PSNI Simon Byrne has said the service needs funding to recruit another 800 officers.
Mr Byrne said the need for additional resources is partly to help combat a growing threat from dissident republicans.
Speaking at Strand Road police station in Derry, he warned that the PSNI cannot continue working at its current pace of operations without extra resources.
The venue he chose to make his remarks was significant. Two days ago police found a bomb in a car in the Creggan area of Derry that they believe the group referred to as the New IRA planned to use to target officers.
The PSNI has said it is alarmed by an increase in activity by dissident republicans across Northern Ireland this year, and said the place causing greatest concern is Derry.
They have said this is because many senior members of the new IRA live in the city, and it has been more active there than anywhere else.
As a result, the PSNI deploys a high proportion of its overt and covert counterterrorism resources in and around Derry.
The PSNI currently employs 6,734 full time officers, and 265 part-time.
Published 20 years ago this week, the Patten Report on reforming policing in Northern Ireland, which led to the creation of the PSNI to replace the RUC, recommended a full time compliment of 7,500.
That recommendation was based on the absence of any threat to police officers.
"We can't keep working at the pace we have done across the summer dealing with a rise in this kind of attack as well as day to day policing issues," he said.
"I've been very clear that we need to grow that figure of 7,500 officers, so we can push more police officers to work with communities to get more information to deal not only with day to day crime, but also continue the fight against paramilitaries and terrorism.
"Communities are our biggest weapons in turning around this problem, but to encourage and enable them we need to increase our neighbourhood policing teams right across Northern Ireland," he said.
The Chief Constable said he has spoken to the Northern Ireland Policing Board and the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about the need for additional resources.
The bulk of the PSNI’s annual budget comes from Stormont, with additional funding targeted at combating dissident republicans coming from Westminster.
This request for additional resources would require a package of funding from both sources.
"Where the funding comes from is not our concern, that is up to politicians to resolve," a source told RTE News.
"What is our concern is protecting the community and our officers and we need to increase our numbers to improve our operational capability to do that."
Mr Byrne also expressed concern at the range of tactics being used by dissident groups, as well as an increase in the level of activity and engineering capability.
There have been seven attempts to kill PSNI officers in Northern Ireland this year.
The police are concerned about the geographical spread as well as the increased tempo of dissident republican activity.
During the past two months, police officers have been targeted in counties Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone, as well as Belfast and Derry.
The Chief Constable said he has dealt with more potential threats to his officers since he took up the role at the start of July than his predecessor faced in the previous 12 months.