Real willingness to engage with police exists among communities’ says report

An inspection by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has looked in detail at the extent policing with the community has become the core business of the PSNI since the Patten Report was published 10 years ago.

The report – which is published today (Friday 3rd April) revealed there was a real appetite within local communities to engage with the police.
“During the course of this inspection, CJI Inspectors spoke with members of the community from across Northern Ireland, who indicated their desire to develop meaningful partnerships with the PSNI,” said Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“Inspectors found a willingness existed within communities to engage with the police, and heard of many examples of police officers working with local communities and making real progress, in terms of solving problems that existed in local areas during this inspection,” he said.
Policing with the community was found to be working best where neighbourhood police officers had actively engaged with the community, and officers had demonstrated a commitment to delivering this new approach to policing by working alongside local community members to make their community safer.
“Communities expressed to Inspectors their aspiration to have a policing service that meets local needs by being accessible and is in touch with local issues,” said Dr Maguire.
This approach, he indicated would ensure communities do not feel distanced from policing following the creation of larger policing districts.
Speaking on behalf of HMIC, Ken Williams, Inspector with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary indicated this can be achieved by District Commanders establishing effective and inclusive consultation arrangements with local communities, and by finding a way to deliver more effective call handling arrangements that maximize the use of local knowledge to support neighbourhood policing work.
“While examples of good police work were recounted to Inspectors, the inspection revealed a growing sense of disappointment with the level of police engagement members of the community were experiencing,” said Mr Williams.
“Members of the community told Inspectors they felt that local police were regularly taken away from their neighbourhood duties to support response teams and other policing tasks,” he added.
Mr Williams suggested that where necessary, resources should be realigned to ensure as many police officers as possible are freed from positions that do not require the powers of a police Constable and reallocated to local policing duties.
But as policing in Northern Ireland does not act independently of social and political developments, progress must be weighed against the changing political and operational challenges, including the current dissident republican threat, which the PSNI have faced and continue to face today.
In conclusion Dr Maguire and Mr Williams said: “The vision of policing articulated in the Patten Report - which placed the community, its needs, and partnership working to resolve problems at the heart of all police activity - presented a unique opportunity to fundamentally change the way policing was delivered in Northern Ireland.
“This inspection has shown that the vision of policing with the community articulated in Patten Report is still valid today and is still how local communities feel policing can best be delivered both now and in the future.
“The PSNI has already re-affirmed its intention and commitment to delivering policing with the community. We welcome the action plan which the PSNI has prepared in response to the findings of our inspection report, and look forward to revisiting this subject in the future to assess the progress which has been made,” they said.