Chief Constable's Formal Report- Northern Ireland Policing Board 1st Septemeber 2016
Chief Constable’s Report
Northern Ireland Policing Board
1 September 2016
Recently I made some comments on Twitter which caused offence to some people, for which I later apologised. Whilst this was an unfortunate incident, it has led to a much wider debate about the pressures facing police officers in Northern Ireland. Issues such as the mental health of officers and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are being talked about openly and that can only be a good thing. As I have made completely clear, I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by my officers and staff on a daily basis and am hugely proud of the work they do. Officers and staff have a range of health and wellbeing services available to them; however there is undoubtedly a need to be resilient in what is an extremely challenging, but hugely rewarding, working environment. The challenge for us, as a Service, is how we balance our primary function to Keep People Safe with the level of service we can realistically provide, particularly with ever decreasing budgets, whilst also looking after the health and wellbeing of officers and staff. This is a discussion that I look forward to continuing in the real world and I welcome the involvement of the Board, along with staff associations and other partners, in that debate.
At the end of July, PSNI is projecting a small pressure, primarily in overtime which we will continue to monitor over the coming months. The financial impact of other challenges previously discussed with the Board, including Legacy costs and police officer headcount, continue to be kept under review.
PSNI recently received further clarity on the Budget process for future years from the Department of Justice. An information gathering exercise has been formally commissioned to help inform a definitive Resource budget for 2017/18 and to provide indicators for Resource budgets up to 2019/20. Some of the information requested includes how Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) budgets are attributed to each statutory function and Programme for Government commitments and the impact of a range of potential Resource DEL budget reductions ranging from 3% (£20m) to 6% (£40m) in 2017/18, rising to even more significant reductions in future years. This is on top of budget cuts totalling some £140m in the last three years alone. PSNI will work closely with the Board and the Department of Justice in formulating a response.
HMIC PEEL INSPECTION UPDATE
The findings of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) ‘PEEL: Police efficiency’ and ‘PEEL: Police effectiveness (vulnerability)’ inspections, undertaken between 1 and 5 February 2016, were released on the day of last month’s Board meeting (4 August). The PSNI has fully accepted the findings of these inspections, and is encouraged that HMIC found PSNI use resources efficiently to Keep People Safe, have a good understanding of current demand, and have a strong track record of achieving required savings. In respect of vulnerability, there are some areas for improvement and PSNI is committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society in partnership with the Board, other statutory agencies and voluntary sector organisations. An infographic providing an overview of some of the vulnerability PSNI deals with has been included at Appendix A.
STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS PROGRAMME
As previously reported to the Board, the Strategic Partnerships Programme has now been established to coordinate the Service’s response to a number of reports that impact on the strategic direction of the organisation. Chief Superintendent Barbara Gray is acting as ‘Gold’ Strategic Lead for the Programme, which will focus on the following areas;
- Programme for Government
- Fresh Start
- The Fresh Start Panel Report on the Disbandment of Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland
- Joint Agency Task Force
- Organised Crime Task Force
Work is ongoing with a range of partner organisations to progress associated recommendations and objectives in these various reports/strategies.
POLICE COLLEGE UPDATE
Following on from reported incidents of impropriety at the PSNI Police College at Garnerville, Terms of Reference for the Review of the College have been shared with the Board. The aim of this Review is to restore the confidence of the Board and the public by remedying any deficiencies whilst ensuring that lessons are learnt to avoid any recurrence. The Review will focus upon five areas;
- Content of the Student Officer Programme
- Culture within the Police College
- Verification of examinations and assessments
- Accreditation and relationship with the Ulster University
Three student officer intakes have been suspended to allow the Review process the necessary space to be completed. The next scheduled intake is anticipated to be in December 2016, with the new recruitment campaign delayed until January 2017. This decision has been balanced against the impact of staff shortages, however will be kept under review through our Service Executive Board. The Review will be completed by 30 September 2016 and the findings and recommendations reported to the Board.
SERVICEFIRST CHANGE MANAGEMENT UPDATE
- Working Together Project
The Working Together Project is a joint PSNI / PPS project set up in response to the recommendations from the Criminal Justice Inspection NI (CJINI) report on file quality and timeliness (including disclosure) which aims to improve evidential and file quality, effectiveness of case progression, reduce delay and improve service to victims. This will be achieved by creating agreed evidential standards, proportionate file standards for officers and protocols for provision of early engagement with prosecutors. It will also seek to deliver a single criminal disclosure unit within PSNI.
A joint pilot, based on the Transforming Summary Justice model used in England & Wales, is currently being explored to provide a better understanding of demand coming from the Criminal Justice System and provide data on the effectiveness and efficiency of proposed changes. The pilot will be considered by the respective governance boards within PSNI and PPS with a proposed commencement of early 2017. Further engagement is continuing with other partners within the Criminal Justice System with a view to extending the scope of this pilot to include the court environment at some point.
- Text Victim Satisfaction Survey update
As previously reported to the Board, in February 2016 a new Text Victim Satisfaction Survey system was introduced to replace the telephone Victim Satisfaction Survey process. The text based survey allows victims of crime to provide feedback on the service they have received, at a time that suits them. The aim of this approach is to enhance the service delivery by utilising technology to provide a more efficient and effective survey product using four key questions. PSNI was the first police service to adopt this approach, which will provide better value for money with anticipated annual savings in excess of £70,000 on 2014 victim feedback survey costs. In addition the survey has been designed to reduce the number of PSNI resources required to administer this survey while ensuring that we provide an efficient and effective service focused on Keeping People Safe.
Results from the Victim Satisfaction Survey data in 2016 to date indicate;
- 80% agreed or strongly agreed that they had been treated with courtesy, fairness and respect by officers/staff.
- 53% were very satisfied or satisfied with how well they have been kept informed with the progress of their case.
- 63% were satisfied or very satisfied with their contact from PSNI.
- 80% agreed or strongly agreed they would recommend a family member or friend report to police if they were the victim of crime.
- Use of LED display at parades
Visual messaging around contentious parading has been an issue for police and the wider criminal justice partners for a number of years. In order to support prosecutions for breaches of Parades Commission determinations, police need to prove that protesters and parade participants have received the information regarding these determinations. In the past, police have tried using banners and posters attached to police vehicles to aid communication and convey information regarding determinations.
We have engaged with the PPS and, on their advice, developed a scrolling LED message board to display messages. This double sided messaging board was supplied by a local supplier and fitted to the top of a landrover. The messaging is visible in bright sun light, visible from a distance, and the display will still function should it be targeted by missiles due to its design. The display has thus far been deployed at parading events in Derry City and Strabane, Causeway Coast and Glens, and Belfast Policing Areas, and has successfully supported prosecutions in Lurgan.
We are currently in the process of providing a 2.5m x 1.5m full colour display screen which will be attached to the side of an existing police van. This enhanced display will provide an additional communication tool for use at wider public safety events with an emphasis on awareness and crime prevention.
- Arrest in Somerset
On 24 August a serving member of the armed forces was arrested in Somerset on suspicion of terrorism offences. This formed part of an investigation into the discovery of two terrorist arms hides in the Larne area earlier this year. Additional searches were carried out in England and in Larne.
- Discovery of significant terrorist hide
Following a considerable search operation in Lurgan on 6 August, police uncovered a significant terrorist hide. Items seized included a shotgun, long barrelled rifle, pistol, detonators, ammunition, constituent parts of homemade explosives and other bomb making components.
- Seizure of firearms
On 4 August, during a three day search, a substantial number of firearms, munitions, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), explosive substances and component parts were recovered. One person was subsequently charged and offered a guilty plea. Sentencing is due to take place in late September.
- Significant cash seizures
On 19 August officers seized £400,000 cash after a lorry was stopped on Portadown Road, Armagh. A further £4,000 was seized during a follow up search of a property. Two men were charged with money laundering offences and conspiracy to supply Class A and B controlled drugs.
Seizure of prescription drugs
Over the past three months officers have been conducting an investigation into the illegal supply and distribution of diazepam tablets into and throughout Northern Ireland. Approximately 65,000 tablets have been seized and 29 searches conducted in Northern Ireland and England. £10,000 cash has also been seized along with quantities of cannabis, amphetamine and mephedrone. A total of 17 people have been arrested; eight have been charged and nine subject to reports being sent to the PPS.
- ‘Ask the Chief’ Twitter event
On 10 August I took part in an ‘Ask the Chief’ Twitter event. In total 53 responses were providing in the space of one hour. There were 80,220 Impressions and 6,406 Engagements, which is up on the last event and shows that there’s a public desire to engage with police through social media. Twitter users took the opportunity to raise a range of serious questions linked to; murder investigations, roads policing, the challenges of dealing with the past, policing standards, sickness levels and engagement. I also had some more light hearted questions about my head leaning and how many Smarties fit in a landrover.
- Youth Volunteer Academy
PSNI has recently launched the Youth Volunteer Academy in partnership with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS). The aim is to give young people a behind-the-scenes experience of the emergency services. This dynamic initiative, which is being piloted in Ballymoney, Newry and Belfast, is for local 12-18 year-olds who meet on a weekly basis to gain a practical insight into emergency and public services through a variety of structured activities. These are delivered by volunteer leaders from the police and ambulance services, with support from the community.
The project, which was developed in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Policing Board, aims to strengthen the relationship between these two emergency services and young people, to give them a voice and an opportunity to promote good citizenship amongst their peers and within their own communities.
Since the start of my tenure as Chief Constable I have been very forthright in speaking out on the implications of cuts to the police budget. However, I also recognise that all public services are being asked to deliver on efficiencies and as Accounting Officer I take my responsibility seriously. We are currently at the start of a budget planning process where we have been invited to scenario plan for up to a 6% cut. Part of that exercise will give me the opportunity to outline the risks and opportunities of any future reductions to police funding and already the PSNI have identified potential implications of further cuts. Ultimately however the matter of budget cuts is a political decision.
The recent HMIC report provides helpful commentary on the PSNI’s capacity with regard to current and future policing demands and while officer numbers are an important part of any assessment process they are only one element. The use of managed services, investment in technology and more agile working practices are all examples of other components of capability that will be considered in the budget planning process.
That said I am mindful of the significant pressures which officers are currently under and the impact that this can have on their personal and family lives, something which has been demonstrated in public discussion in the past week. With this in mind the PSNI will continue to do all possible with the funding available to maximise police numbers and alleviate the unique pressures of being a police officer in Northern Ireland.