PSNI thriving despite Stormont impasse

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is rising to the challenges posed by political gridlock in the Stormont Assembly, inspectors have found.

Mar 15, 2018
By Kevin Hearty

Officers are effectively reducing crime and protecting the public despite acting with a smaller budget than last year, according to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

The continued power-sharing vacuum has left the PSNI with only 95 per cent of the previous year’s budget – but the force has improved its effectiveness and efficiency ratings from ‘requiring improvement’ to ‘good’.

Efforts to tackle organised crime and terrorism are particularly successful, despite some partners’ hesitancy to engage. However, HMICFRS claims officers need extra support to investigate volume crime, and should take more action against people issued with arrest warrants for less serious offences.

HM Inspector Matt Parr praised the force for its efforts to address “long-standing, recurrent problems”.

“That said, we did identify some areas for improvement. We found that uniformed officers often lacked the necessary support and supervision to effectively investigate volume crimes like burglary,” he added.

“We also found very little evidence that the PSNI systematically pursed people it issued with arrest warrants for minor crimes.

“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.”

The PSNI’s budget has shrunk by £271 million since 2011, and HMICFRS’s ‘Efficiency’ and ‘Effectiveness’ reports, published on Thursday (March 15), found this has limited its future planning opportunities.

Despite this the PSNI has improved how it prevents crime and keeps people safe, with recorded crime in the Province below the UK average.

The force is particularly effective at tackling serious and organised crime, and has gained a solid understanding of the threat posed by dissident terrorism. Joint work with partners is helping it disrupt and dismantle criminal groups and the most serious offenders are being handled with prevention orders.

This is complemented by good use of media to inform the public about both the threat of terrorism and its successful investigations – which are of such a high standard HMICFRS found no areas in need of improvement. The force has also improved its understanding of officers’ skills and capability, putting it in a stronger position to meet emerging threats.

Inspectors claim it could improve investigations into less serious volume offences by ensuring there is better supervision, and training frontline officers to apply problem-solving techniques more consistently.

The full benefits of partner working are not always being realised as some agencies are reluctant to support the force due to fears of dissident reprisals. The force has also built up a backlog of digital devices requiring analysis, and needs to reduce this.

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said: “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.

“The PSNI also recognises that effective partnership working in Northern Ireland is key and requires the strategic direction that was laid out in the Draft Programme for Government. “This is all the more important given the increasing financial pressures across the public sector.”

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