Chief Constable's December Report
It has been 15 years since the formation of the Police Service Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Policing Board. It is therefore worthy of note that the recently published final report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence observed that police reform was “where the greatest achievements have been made in Northern Ireland.”
At two recent Conferences marking the 15 year anniversary we collectively took time to reflect on what has been achieved and refocus for the challenges ahead. The conversations were rewarding and it is important that they are carried forward into outcomes for the community.
As the world continues to change, it becomes increasingly important that we evolve and adapt. It is clear that greater collaboration with our partners and a collective focus on prevention and early intervention are critical to the successful delivery of public services in the future. PSNI are fully committed to this direction of travel and will continue to work with the Policing Board to deliver even greater change in the years ahead.
Every effort continues to be made to maximise value from the budget in this financial year. Some emerging pressures such as rising Forensic Medical Officers costs and the cost of policing operations in the approach to Christmas are being carefully monitored through the Deputy Chief Constable’s Performance and Assurance meetings.
Following the recent Autumn statement, it is anticipated that we will shortly get a definitive position for the Resource budget in 2017-18 and further clarity for the years beyond. PSNI will report on impact and implications to the Policing Board at the earliest opportunity.
HUMAN RESOURCES UPDATE
- ‘Barriers to recruitment’ research
As part of PSNI’s commitment to deliver a diverse and representative workforce, research was commissioned by Deloitte to understand barriers affecting police officer recruitment. In particular there is a recognised need to increase representation from females and members of the Catholic community.
The findings of this research were presented to the Policing Board Resources Committee on Thursday 24 November 2016. PSNI have shared the Deloitte presentation and emerging recommendations with the Board. We look forward to further discussions on this issue, with a view to developing an implementation plan.
- Body Worn Video (BWV) update
Following the successful roll-out and operational usage of BWV technology to officers in Derry City and Strabane in June, the technology has now been launched in Belfast City. The pilot in Derry City and Strabane demonstrated how BWV has the potential to improve the quality of evidence provided by officers and thereby increase the number of offenders brought to justice. Video evidence provides a compelling account of events and supports accountability and transparency, both of which are key elements in increasing public confidence in policing.
- Changes to custody arrangements
PSNI has made a number of decisions regarding the future provision of its custody facilities throughout Northern Ireland. The organisation has continued reviewing its custody suites as some are under-utilised and a number require modernisation and investment to ensure they continue to meet health and safety requirements.
A custody strategy has been developed for the next three years which includes the temporary or permanent closure of four smaller suites by the end of 2019.
The changes will start to be implemented in December 2016, with the closure of Bangor Custody Suite with effect from 5 December. It will be available for short, specific periods of time, if required, to facilitate the ongoing refurbishment programme underway in other suites.
Enniskillen Custody Suite will close temporarily in March 2017 for refurbishment, while the suite in Armagh will permanently shut in early 2017 following the re-opening of Lurgan, which is currently temporarily closed for refurbishment.
Work on a new, purpose-built £11m facility with 21 cells on the existing Waterside site in Derry City is planned to begin in 2017. It will replace the custody provision in Strand Road, which will close on completion of this new custody suite in 2019.
- Corporate Policy
PSNI policy provides a vital signpost to all Police Officers and Staff for their contribution to the Chief Constable's vision of Keeping People Safe. PSNI policy also provides reassurance to communities and partners of our commitment to service delivery through accountability, fairness, courtesy and respect, and collaborative decision making.
As previously reported to the Board (in September 2016), a review has been taking place of Corporate Policy to assist in the process of reducing unnecessary bureaucracy and ensuring policies are ‘fit for purpose’, ‘user friendly’ and easily accessible. A technical solution ‘went live’ on 17 October 2016. This has vastly improved accessibility and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Service Policy documents are replacing what are known as Policy Directives. Service Policy documents are: 'Principles to govern the organisation, reflecting the Chief Constable's vision.'
Service Instruction documents are replacing Service Procedures. Service Instruction documents are, 'Practical instructions for service delivery to inform decision making in line with Service Policy'.
As part of our commitment to greater openness and transparency, as our updated policy documents become available, they are being published on our external website.
- Online Firearms Applications Process
PSNI are moving to an online process in early 2017. This change process follows feedback from stakeholders and members of the public that the current application process is too slow and does not meet their requirements. On average Firearms and Explosives Branch process 19,000 grant/regrant and variations each year. Currently 13% of all applications are rejected and returned to the applicant due to mistakes or omissions on the paper form. A further percentage of applications also get held up in the postal system due to insufficient postage. Both these issues delay the process of assessing an application. In order to significantly reduce these type of delays, PSNI are introducing an online process for applications for grant/regrant or variation of firearm applications. The new online system uses a secure IT system and will allow us to process applications more efficiently monitor performance.
As part of our engagement and education programme regarding the new system, PSNI Firearms and Explosives Branch, in partnership with NI Direct and Ignite, have hosted information events at locations in Derry City, Antrim, Dungannon, Omagh and Lisburn, from 21 November to 1 December. These events gave firearms certificate holders the practical opportunity to try out the new system for themselves and provide feedback.
PRIORITY BASED RESOURCING (PBR) UPDATE
As previously reported to the Board, the PBR process is ongoing within PSNI. Panel 2 presentations are now underway and due to complete on schedule mid-January 2017.
The process has been designed to encourage suggestions or ideas about how we can adjust processes or alter the way in which we deliver our service to produce efficiencies and ultimately live within our organisational budget.
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF POLICING
On 24 November the Department of Justice released the “Perceptions of Policing, Justice and Anti-Social Behaviour” quarterly update to March 2016. The percentage of respondents who expressed overall confidence in policing remained consistent with the previous year (80.6% in 2014/15 compared to 81.5% in 2015/16). An increase was seen in respect of the percentage of respondents who believe police provide an ordinary day-to-day service for all the people in NI (up from 85% to 86.1%).
These survey results follow the publication of the Board’s own public perceptions of policing survey in November which reported confidence levels of 88%. While PSNI are proud of these figures, we are not complacent. We know that there are communities in which trust in policing remains some way off and we remain committed to earning their confidence and support. However, Police cannot do this alone. As was discussed at the recent anniversary conferences - further sustainable progress on policing will be dependent on further political and societal progress.
CROSS BORDER JOINT AGENCY TASK FORCE
The Cross Border Joint Agency Task Force was established as part of the Fresh Start Agreement, to provide agreed investigative priorities for collaborative work by a number of different agencies. Core members are PSNI, An Garda Síochána, National Crime Agency, Home Office Immigration, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Irish Revenue Commissioners and UK Border Agency.
The Joint Agency Task Force second assessment has now been completed. Priority crime areas have been reviewed, with rural crime, human trafficking, illicit drugs, excise fraud and financial fraud remaining as priorities for the next six months.
Since formation of the Task Force the results have included;
- Rural Crime – eight suspects from Dublin arrested in Newry and charged as part of two burglary investigations; two suspects charged in relation to ATM fraud in Fermanagh; five suspects with a mix of Northern Irish and Irish addresses arrested in Fermanagh for handling stolen goods.
- Child Sexual Exploitation – twenty two searches conducted on both sides of the border as part of a joint agency, cross border investigation into persons suspected of being involved in downloading indecent images of children.
- Human Trafficking – recovery of seven potential victims of trafficking located in Northern Ireland following a cross border investigation.
- Drugs – five organised crime groups dismantled or disrupted. Nine persons arrested and quantities of illicit drugs seized.
- Excise Fraud – three organised crime groups dismantled or disrupted and nine people arrested.
POLICE COLLEGE UPDATE
Following reported incidents of impropriety at the Police College, Garnerville, an independent review was established. The Review Report has now been shared publicly, and work against the Implementation Plan is well underway. Over half of the recommendations, including all of the immediate and short-term recommendations, have now been implemented. Progress is ongoing and on-track against the medium and long-term recommendations.
- Drugs arrests
The figures for the latest stage of the Op Torus campaign to tackle street-level drug dealing across Northern Ireland were released on 25 November. Operation Torus ran from 5 September until 31 October. The following outcomes were delivered;
o £3.36 million worth of drugs seized
o 674 searches conducted
o 373 arrests effected, of which 279 were either charged or reported to the Public Prosecution Service
o 586 drugs seizures made
- Winter drink/drive operation
On 24 November PSNI launched the annual winter drink drive operation. Officers will be using new legislation which gives them the powers to perform random breath tests at vehicle checkpoints. During last year’s operation, PSNI detected 375 people who had decided to risk killing or injuring themselves, their family, friends or other innocent road users by deciding to drive after drinking.
- Cyber awareness events
PSNI held a series of cyber awareness events at the end of October, in conjunction with Get Safe Online. The events included pop up shops in Belfast, Derry City and Lisburn, preceded by the launch of the Get Safe online media campaign. Get Safe Online is a public/private sector partnership aimed at educating the public about the dangers of cybercrime, and how to protect themselves whilst online.
- Launch of Scamwise
A major new awareness campaign was launched on 10 November. The campaign – ‘If you can spot it, you can stop it’ – devised by the Policing Board, PSNI and the Department of Justice, is in response to the rising number of scams being reported. An estimated 17% of people across Northern Ireland have been the victims of scams in the last three years which equates to 314,840 of the population. Further information can be found at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/
- Opening of the RADAR Centre
The Award winning RADAR, (Risk Avoidance and Danger Awareness Resource) Northern Ireland’s first fully interactive ‘safety’ educational centre which tackles the main risks and dangers facing children and young people was officially opened on Friday 25 November. Sir Matt Baggott, who introduced the concept of safety centres to Northern Ireland, returned to officially open the facility at Heron Road in the Belfast Harbour Estate. I was delighted to accompany him, along with the Chair of the Board and the Justice Minister.
The RADAR Centre has already won the Public Sector category of the NI Road Safety Awards. The innovative safety and life skills centre has been operating, prior to the official opening, in Belfast from January 2016 and has delivered education to almost 10,000 children and young people. RADAR is the only centre of its kind on the island of Ireland and offers unique programmes.
- Cyber security of policing’s online presence – high rating for PSNI
The Centre for Public Safety has examined the public-facing digital infrastructure to test security. The research involved scanning of 71 police and affiliated websites. PSNI achieved an A-grade rating, meaning delivery of ‘secure by default’. This demonstrates that PSNI and our IT partners recognise the need to both signal and deliver a secure communications channel.
This is the final Board Report of 2016. The PSNI Service Executive Team would like to take this opportunity to thank the Board members and officials for their support throughout 2016. As was highlighted time and again by the discussions throughout the 15 year anniversary conferences, effective accountability has played a critical role in building confidence in policing. We wish you all a peaceful and safe Christmas. We would also extend our thanks to our own officers and staff, many of whom will be working over the Christmas period, keeping people safe.