Fear of dissidents ‘hampering PSNI efforts to tackle crime’

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said the force would study the report for areas in which it could improve
PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said the force would study the report for areas in which it could improve

Police efforts to tackle crime are being hindered by a reluctance within some partner organisations to work with officers over fears of dissident republican reprisals, inspectors have found.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that the police in the Province were doing a good job, particular in the context of the power-sharing vacuum.

While the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the police was commended, inspectors expressed concern that in certain areas an ongoing hesitancy to engage with officers was hampering their work.

The HMIC said there were many good examples of local neighbourhood officers working with partner organisations to resolve “long-standing, recurrent problems of crime and anti-social behaviour”.

But it added: “We also found examples where the efforts of officers to tackle problems were being hindered by the reluctance of individual members of partner organisations to be seen to be actively supporting or working with the police, for fear of reprisals from dissident groups.”

Other issues raised by inspectors, who assessed the PSNI in March last year, was an inconsistent approach to problem solving.

They found that uniformed officers often lacked the necessary support and supervision to effectively investigate volume crimes like burglary.

Inspectors said they also found little evidence the PSNI systematically pursued people it issued with arrest warrants for minor crimes.

They also urged the service to continue efforts to reduce the backlog of digital devices waiting to be analysed.

But the overall report gave the PSNI a “good” rating.

Inspectors said this was more notable given the budgetary uncertainty caused by the collapse of the Stormont Executive.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said: “We are encouraged to find that the PSNI continues to make good use of its resources in spite of continuing uncertainty around the political situation in Northern Ireland.

“Since our last inspection, it has developed a deeper understanding of its workforce’s skills and capability and is in a strong position to meet the demands of newer threats such as human trafficking and cyber-crime.

“While we recognise that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is a high-performing force, it should investigate all crimes to a consistently high standard, regardless of the seriousness of the offence.”

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris welcomed the grading.

“We have continued to deliver effective policing in a very challenging financial situation and we will be considering the report in detail to identify any further areas where we can continue to improve on the work already undertaken,” he said.

Mr Harris said that since 2011 the PSNI budget had been reduced by around £271 million.

“Despite this significant challenge, independent surveys show confidence in policing is at over 90%,” he said.

“HMICFRS has highlighted the importance of partnership working in supporting the safety and wellbeing of our communities.

“I am particularly pleased that the inspectors recognised a number of examples of local neighbourhood officers working with a range of partners across Northern Ireland to keep people safe and to resolve crime and anti-social behaviour problems within communities, and we will continue to use those identified good examples to reinforce engagement across all communities.”