Chief Constable’s Report Northern Ireland Policing Board 3 March 2016

  • 03 March 2016

Chief Constable’s Report Northern Ireland Policing Board 3 March 2016

FINANCE UPDATE

PSNI’s Unringfenced Resource DEL budget is now confirmed as £646m following the outcome of January Monitoring.  This includes a budget reduction of £26.2m by the Department to contribute towards Departmental and NI Block pressures.  After significant organisational effort, as at the end of January 2016, PSNI are projecting a breakeven position at year end.

The Board have now received a copy of our Resource Plan, which provides details of proposals to achieve a balanced budget for 2016/17 (based on a one year funding settlement). The plan is based on a 2% reduction to the core police budget. As previously outlined to the Board, our professional judgement is that a minimum of 6,963 officers are required to maintain operational resilience, supported by the appropriate number of staff.  To protect Police and Staff numbers to these levels and to achieve a balanced budget for 2016-17, requires a cut in the region of 10% to non-staff budgets.  Overall, these proposals represent a balanced approach to addressing operational demands, delivering against reduced budgets and meeting expectations in a way which retains the ability of the Service to respond to the unexpected.

Whilst clarity around a 2% reduction is very much welcomed, this will almost certainly equate to a 10% non-pay reduction. This will lead to inevitable challenges during 2016/2017 and will require a continual focus to identify and realise potential efficiencies. The Priority Based Resourcing project will assist, however it will take time to develop during the forthcoming financial year. In the meantime, and in accordance with the medium term resource plan, I wish to highlight some tangible impacts that will inevitably arise in the near future. These include, but are not limited to, the following:-

  • Reduction in overtime, resulting in reduced capacity to deal with major police operations (eg periods of large-scale, protracted public order).
  • Reduced patrolling and possible delays in attendance times.
  • Investigations prioritised and fewer attended.
  • Reduced ability to invest in new technology to tackle emerging areas of criminality, such as cyber crime.
  • Limited ability to progress training, including operational training and leadership training.
  • Closure of at least 12 police stations and reductions in opening hours.

I have previously advised the Board regarding the investigation into the individual known as Stakeknife, outlining in particular the financial implications which will arise. Despite a number of meetings, I have been unable to secure additional funding for the investigation. Without the funding, or any underwriting of the costs, PSNI will carry the residual risk in terms of any overspend in the forthcoming years.

We are in the final stages of preparing an overarching Corporate Plan which will make reference to finance, resources, targets, outputs and, ultimately, a clear vision for PSNI by the year 2020. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) has been assisting in this work and it is nearing completion. I look forward to briefing the Board on the contents in the very near future.  

Finally, in terms of financial matters, I wish to again highlight the challenges in terms of long term planning. Unlike other Police Services, PSNI is still restricted due to an annual budget, no ability to carry over funding from year to year, and no precepting powers to raise revenue. I would again appeal to those with influence to review this position and take appropriate steps in order to permit PSNI (and other agencies in Northern Ireland) to financially plan more strategically in the future. 

HUMAN RESOURCES UPDATE

  • Employee survey

As mentioned in previous Board reports, the PSNI Employee Engagement survey, in collaboration with Durham University, was launched in January and was open for four weeks.  A total of 3,671 officers and staff completed the survey.  Durham University will now take time to analyse the data before presenting the results.  A short follow-up survey will be launched on Monday 29 February.  Findings will help to drive actions and further embed the Policing with the Community culture within the organisation.

  • Promotion processes

The PSNI Service Executive Team has endorsed a promotion programme for police staff grades within the organisation.  Due to begin in April 2016, this programme will offer advancement opportunities to our valued police staff. Following the deployment of newly-promoted Superintendents to their posts, we are now in the midst of the competition to promote officers to Chief Inspector. Again the Board will be updated regarding both the results and deployments.

  • HMIC PEEL Inspection

HMIC have recently completed their inaugural PEEL Inspection having focused on this occasion on Efficiency and Effectiveness. Initial findings have been shared with some Board members and there are inevitably both positive areas to build upon and negative areas which will need addressed. On receipt of the final report, I look forward to engaging with the Board in order to take these matters forward.

NORTHERN IRELAND CRIME SURVEY

The Department of Justice has published the latest Northern Ireland Crime Survey report; ‘Experience of Crime: Findings from the 2014/15 Northern Ireland Crime Survey’.  The report focusses on crime victimisation rates for broad crime types, crimes affecting whole households and personal crimes against respondents.  The key findings are that crime rates are down and that the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime in Northern Ireland continues to be lower than in England and Wales. The relevant results in slightly more detail include:-

  • 8.8% of all households and their adult occupants were victims of at least one NICS crime during the 12 months prior to the survey.  This represents the lowest NICS victimisation (prevalence) rate since the measure was first reported in NICS in 1998 (23%). 
  • Comparison against the findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2014/15 shows the risk of becoming a victim of crime remains lower in Northern Ireland (8.8%, compared to 15.9% in England and Wales).
  • The 2014/15 survey also shows that incidence rates per 10,000 households/adults are generally higher in England and Wales than they are in Northern Ireland.

LEGACY PRESSURES

As the Board are aware, legacy issues continue to put significant pressures onto policing and impact on our ability to police the present and the future.  Legacy Investigation Branch’s (LIB’s) current workload includes the Bloody Sunday Investigation, the Military Reaction Force Investigation, investigations emanating from the Boston College tapes and the ‘On the Runs’ Review.  There are 937 incomplete HET cases to be reviewed.  In addition we have a legal obligation to conduct investigations where there has been a Section 35(5) referral from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). 

SERVICEFIRST CHANGE MANAGEMENT UPDATE

  • Area and District Implementation

The last 12 months have seen significant change in our Area and District structures as we moved to a coterminous model in terms of RPA. Most of the changes took place between April and October 2015 meaning the new arrangements have been in place for six months. Work is ongoing to review these arrangements in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness and again the Board will be updated in due course.

  • Custody Review

We are committed to the delivery and maintenance of safer custody and in particular in addressing the complex needs of vulnerable people and their well-being while in custody.

During the month of January 2016, of the 2,112 people detained in custody across Northern Ireland, 110 of these individuals had to be transferred to hospital from custody, given their medical needs.  On average, 50% of hospital transfers are from Musgrave, Belfast equating to 500 transfers to hospitals in the Greater Belfast area from custody annually.

Work is ongoing with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and other Criminal Justice agencies to explore future custody healthcare provision and secure appropriate referral pathways from custody.  To support in the management of medication for individuals detained in custody, Health and Social Care has agreed to collaboratively work with PSNI on this matter.  PSNI has also worked with the Public Health Agency (PHA) in developing a Health Needs Analysis to highlight the critical challenges and inform future healthcare provision.

In February, PSNI also explored Mental Health Street Triage Programmes that operate in other UK cities to gain an insight into such structures and processes.  This approach ensures an appropriate referral pathway for individuals with mental health issues, so they can access the correct service, when they need it most.   The PSNI is currently exploring the potential of working with partners to implement such a programme.

OPERATIONAL UPDATE

  • Tackling the harm caused by drugs supply

Operation Torus, aimed at tackling street level drug dealing, has been running since 1 February.  To date PSNI officers have arrested 96 suspects, made 122 drug seizures, charged 18 people and reported 23 people to the Public Prosecution Service.  The operation will continue to run until mid-March and final results will be shared with the Board.

On 29 February, officers arrested a number of people following a proactive operation into the supply of heroin in the Greater Portadown area.  This was part of a wider investigation into the supply of heroin.  As a result of this ongoing investigation, sixteen people have been arrested and nine searches conducted in the Craigavon and Dungannon areas.

  • Recovery of weapons

During the month of February PSNI officers have been involved in the recovery of a number of weapons.  Examples have included the arrest of two people and recovery of two rifles following a shooting in West Belfast; and the unrelated recovery of a balaclava and a handgun as a result of officers noting suspicious activity in East Belfast.

  • Saving lives

In February officers responded to reports of a person having been hit by a train in Finaghy.  The male had sustained life threatening injuries and officers, as first responders, commenced First Aid.  Their actions saved the man’s life.

  • Body worn video (BWV) update

PSNI has appointed a suitable company as the supplier for BWV technology.  This development marks the next phase in the roll-out of BWV technology to officers delivering frontline policing across Northern Ireland.  The use of BWV technology has been evidenced to have the potential to improve the quality of evidence provided by officers and thereby increase the proportion of offences brought to justice.  It will also support the delivery of a transparent, accountable Police Service.

  • Victim Satisfaction Survey

PSNI have launched a new text-message-based Victim Satisfaction Survey.  Each year we survey approximately 20,000 victims of crime to monitor satisfaction levels, asking them about the service they have received and if they have any ideas about how we could improve our service or adapt our approach to better suit the needs of the community.  This was previously carried out through a telephone process, however moving to a text based survey allows victims of crime to provide feedback on the service they have received from PSNI, at a time that suits them. 

  • Reoffending in partnership

Reducing Offending in Partnership (ROP) has signed a new team player - the Irish Football Association (IFA).   The IFA will work directly with the agencies involved in ROP; Northern Ireland Prison Service, Probation Board for Northern Ireland, The Police Service of Northern Ireland and Youth Justice Agency to support people who may be at risk of offending and offenders, using sport as a channel to develop a range of skills.

The IFA already has an established outreach project team that work with football clubs, youth clubs, community groups and schools right across Northern Ireland.   In the coming months, the IFA will be developing a bespoke programme of activity that ROP teams working across Northern Ireland will be able to access.  So for example if the ROP team based in Ballymena felt that they had people who were at risk of offending, or if there were offenders that want to move away from their current lifestyle, the ROP team can nominate a number of people to get involved in the IFA’s programme.  Through the programme they will learn new skills and have the opportunity to work with experienced people in the sporting industry. 

  • Collaborative working with the business community

PSNI continue to work collaboratively with the business community, taking part in a workshop during February alongside the Justice Minister and Chair of the Board.  In addition, through the SafeShop Scheme, PSNI Crime Prevention officers are providing training to retail staff in relation to customer theft.

  • Launch of online safety course

PSNI and the Ulster University have launched a course to help those who are interested in gaining a better understanding of how to stay safe online.  The five week course, entitled ‘Cybersafe’, is designed to provide participants with an awareness of cyber crime and highlighting tools and support available to help everyone stay safe in the virtual world.

PSNI are also increasing capacity within the Cyber Crime Unit, with a further nine Detectives being allocated.  Around three malware attacks on local businesses and industries are reported to police every week.  There has also been an increase in the number of reported online extortion incidents.  Officers within the Unit are involved in the investigation of last year’s cyber attack against Talk Talk.

CONCLUSION

Whilst budget reductions are undoubtedly challenging for the PSNI Service Executive Team, there are also opportunities to find efficiencies and better ways of working.  Whilst we have a duty to make the Board aware of the pressures we face and the inevitable changes in the policing landscape, we are also optimistic about leading positive changes. 

We all remain incredibly proud of our staff and officers and their day to day commitment and courage to help those most vulnerable and at risk in our society. In this vein, we very much welcome the Police Federation’s #WeAreYou campaign and wholeheartedly support the message that police officers and staff are integral to our society.

As always, we remain determined and committed to do all we can to Keep People Safe.