Chief Constable’s Formal Report – Northern Ireland Policing Board – 7 April 2016
PSNI officers and staff continue to operate against a backdrop of a severe terrorist threat, meaning an attack is highly likely. The recent murder of Prison Officer Adrian Ismay acts as a painful reminder to all that there are a small number of people that remain intent on causing harm. We join our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Prison Service in mourning Adrian’s death. We also remember our colleague Ronan Kerr, who was murdered five years ago on 2 April. PSNI remain committed to bringing to justice those who would try to threaten the security and safety of individuals who work selflessly to Keep People Safe in Northern Ireland.
As indicated to the Board in the March report, 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 of Justice to contribute towards Departmental and NI Block Grant pressures. After significant organisational effort, PSNI are projecting a small underspend at year end of less than 1%. This will be confirmed in the coming days when the year-end report is finalised.
While we have recently agreed a balanced budget for 2016/17, this has only been possible by making decisions that will have an impact this year and in the years ahead. 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 and to achieve a balanced budget for 2016-17, will require a cut in the region of 10% to non-staff budgets. The impact of these reductions and reductions in Police Staff levels as a result of Voluntary Exit Scheme will be felt in the coming months.
A funding bid for the 3 year period to 2019/20 has yet to be formally commissioned by Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP), however PSNI welcomes the opportunity to start preparations with the Department of Justice later this month. This will enable PSNI to provide an overview and discuss strategic priorities, issues, challenges and opportunities for the coming years.
Investigation into the individual referred to as Stakeknife
It has been agreed that an enquiry team will be established to progress the investigation into the individual referred to as Stakeknife, following a referral by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) under Section 35 Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2000.
Work has been ongoing in this regard and we are moving towards the appointment of a Chief Constable from Great Britain, who will have delegated authority to conduct his investigations with an externally appointed investigation team, also from Great Britain. Funding for this aspect remains a significant challenge, as we have been unable to secure underwriting from the Northern Ireland Office or the Northern Ireland Executive for the additional spend that will be required to finance the enquiry team.
The Lord Chief Justice has proposed reforms to the coronial system, which are anticipated to stretch over a 5-6 year period. To allow this reform to be implemented, additional resource needs to be allocated to this area of business. The PSNI has presented the Department of Justice with several business cases regarding the drawdown of funding to begin this process. We are currently awaiting approval from the Northern Ireland Executive for the initial 18 month phase; however no financial commitment has been secured for the overarching 5-6 year period. Resourcing the initial 18-month phase of this project will present practical difficulties regarding recruitment of appropriate Police Staff, given that temporary workers are not an employment option available to PSNI at this time.
Back record conversion
A further aspect of concern is the fact that the Northern Ireland Executive is not considering capital investment for an appropriate IT system for records management. Such a system will be necessary for the back record conversion of hard copy records and the millions of documents contained in a sensitive system. The absence of this IT infrastructure is a current cause of delay in the coronial system and moving it forward is crucial to the management of legacy investigations. It will be a vital element of any work undertaken by a Historic Inquiries Unit.
We will continue to negotiate with the Department of Justice on these issues, but would value the support of the Northern Ireland Policing Board in our business case to improve performance on legacy inquests.
CROSS JURISIDICTIONAL JOINT AGENCY TASK FORCE
Following the Fresh Start Agreement, the Cross Jurisdictional Joint Agency Task Force Strategic Coordination Group met on 4 March. The following areas have now been endorsed as priorities for the next six months; rural crime, child sexual exploitation, excise fraud, financial crime, drugs and human trafficking.
PERCEPTIONS OF POLICING
According to the latest Department of Justice report on Perceptions of Policing, Justice and Anti-Social Behaviour released in March, confidence in policing saw an increase when compared to the previous year. The overall confidence rating increased from 79.9% to 81.4%. The percentage of people who believed Police do a very or fairly good job also increased, as did the percentage of people who believe Police treat Catholics and Protestants equally in Northern Ireland.
According to the latest Police Ombudsman’s report, the number of complaints and allegations received between April 2015 and February 2016 saw a 12% and 15% reduction respectively when compared to the same period in the previous year. Complaints and allegations decreased in all Districts. Complaints arising from Police enquiries more than halved. There was also a notable decrease in complaints arising from completed criminal investigations, domestic incidents and arrests, and a decrease in failure on duty, oppressive behaviour and incivility allegations.
HUMAN RESOURCES UPDATE
- PSNI’s 100th graduation
PSNI’s 100th graduation took place on Friday 1 April. The graduating student officers entered the Police Training College in October and have successfully completed five months intensive training. The officers will now complete a probationary period for two years during which time they will be mentored for one year.
Since the inception of the Police Service of Northern Ireland there have been a total of 4,576 officers who have graduated. The first class graduated on the 5 April 2002.
- Promotion processes
The beginning of March saw the successful outcome of several officer promotion processes and a subsequent reshuffle of senior officers in the organisation.
The first of the Police Staff promotion processes was launched this week, with a planned schedule running through until September.
SERVICEFIRST CHANGE MANAGEMENT UPDATE
- Corporate Plan
PSNI have now developed a Corporate Plan for the period 2016-2020. This Plan sets out PSNI’s vision and Strategic Work Areas for the next four years. It will be supported by an Annual Business Plan which will detail the key activities within each of the Strategic Work Areas.
The Corporate Plan will complement the Northern Ireland Policing Plan as an internal document which will provide assurance to our officers and staff that we are clear about where we are going and what we need to do to get there by 2020.
The Corporate Plan will support PSNI in delivering its purpose of Keeping People Safe, through a sustainable organisational operating model, and will promote a Policing with the Community organisational culture.
- Priority Based Resourcing (PBR)
The next phase of the Priority Based Resourcing programme is underway. From April to June 2016, business leads from 78 different business areas will present a structured analysis of resources, costs, processes and outcomes to a panel of senior officers and staff.
Business leads have been working with officers and staff in their respective areas to establish how efficiencies can be made and services streamlined to allow the organisation to continue to deliver on statutory requirements, while prioritising against the greatest threat, risk, harm and opportunity.
Business leads will present on three separate occasions over the next 12 month period.
Panel 1 - The first Priority Based Resourcing panels have been designed to enhance and improve the allocation of human, financial and other PSNI resources; and achieve agreement on approach and focus.
Panel 2 - At this stage, presentations will identify and evaluate the feasibility of proposals for variations in method, volume and service level changes; and result in agreement on which proposals are to be developed.
Panel 3 - Detailed finalised proposals will be presented and an agreement of actions to be delivered within a set timescale.
- Corporate Support Branch
Corporate Support Branch was established on 1 February 2016 to oversee a number of core departments. Led by Chief Superintendent Peter Farrar, the Branch is responsible for coordinating the main organisational change programmes and managing a range of formal accountability structures and associated engagement.
Process Improvement Unit - Oversees the organisation’s key change programmes, falling under the ServiceFirst work stream.
Priority Based Resourcing - A process involving the review of all services PSNI delivers, how they benefit the community, what they cost and what objectives and public demands they are achieving
Corporate Governance - Corporate Governance is the system by which the organisation is directed and controlled. It is concerned with systems, processes, controls, accountabilities and decision making. The organisation achieves the assurance of effective Corporate Governance through a number of Governance Committees.
International Programmes - The International Programmes team support PSNI’s ability to Keep People Safe through the development and delivery of security and policing related research, funding and positioning opportunities. The team manages international opportunities and requests by external organisations to learn from PSNI. Officers and staff can shape and influence the progress and operational outcome of security research in Europe which has a direct impact on operational work in Northern Ireland.
Command Secretariat - Engagement is central in all of these branches, but it is one of the primary functions of Command Secretariat, which manages engagement with the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the Department of Justice, MLAs and a diverse range of stakeholders.
- Demand Analysis
The PSNI is currently undertaking a project to review the demand that the organisation experiences in three main areas; public demand, protective demand and internal demand.
Scoping work over the course of the last 12 months has already provided an insight into the range of competing and conflicting priorities experienced by policing in an average 24 hour period. Further analytical rigour will allow the organisation to establish how processes can be refined and bureaucracy streamlined to ensure continued prioritisation of resources in line with threat, risk, harm and opportunity. Initial activity, undertaken within the public demand category has considered calls for service, FOI requests, media enquiries, liaison with elected representatives and activity that is required to meet the needs of various governance and accountability bodies.
In relation to calls for service, over recent years these remained constant at approximately 500,000 calls a year. Less than 20% of these calls were linked to crime. Around 80% of calls for service related to anti-social behaviour (ASB), public safety and welfare (e.g. vulnerable people, people with mental health problems and missing people), child protection and safeguarding, public reassurance and protection and transport and road related matters.
Over the last five years significant increases have been recorded in calls relating to public safety, welfare issues and people providing information which they think may be useful to police.
Over the Easter holidays some 140 parades and commemoration events took place across Northern Ireland. Large numbers of people attended these; the vast majority did so in a spirit of historical commemoration.
From the outset PSNI’s aim was to ensure that commemorative occasions, parades and protests passed off lawfully and peacefully. This, of course, was set against the severe threat backdrop under which we currently operate. The majority of events passed off without incident. However, we are now investigating suspected breaches of a Parades Commission determination in Coalisland and un-notified processions in Ardoyne, Lurgan and Derry. We have gathered evidence at each of these events and will present reports to the Public Prosecution Service with a view to holding individuals to account.
- Burglary operation
Anti-burglary operation, Operation Cordella, ran from 15 February to 13 March, resulting in over 170 searches being carried out by officers. A total of 68 people were detained on suspicion of burglary during the operation and 42 others were held on suspicion of committing other offences.
A total of 42 charges were brought against arrested individuals, with seven others reported to the Public Prosecution Service. Domestic burglary rates during the period of the operation fell by 15%, down to 460 from 540 recorded in the same time frame in the previous year. The number of domestic burglaries affecting people over 60 years of age dropped by 29% during the operation, down from 147 in the previous year to 104 this year.
- Roads Policing
During the 2015 calendar year there were 6,147 injury collisions recorded by PSNI, resulting in a total of 9,737 casualties. 74 people were killed and 711 people seriously injured.
PSNI recently released the 2015 Annual Report on Police Issued Fixed Penalty Notice and Discretionary Disposal Statistics for Traffic Offences in Northern Ireland.
The key results include;
28,140 traffic offences dealt with by means of Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), Discretionary Disposal (DD) or completion of a Speed Awareness Course.
Speeding offences (7,702) represented just over one quarter (27%) of all detections.
One fifth of all FPNs and DDs issued were for mobile phone offences (5,715).
- Significant drugs seizures
On 18 March an estimated £400,000 worth of cannabis was seized as a result of searches in Antrim and of a vehicle on the M2. Additional searches also took place in Belfast and Newtownards as part of the investigation. A 33 year old man and a 52 year old woman were arrested and charged.
In an unrelated incident, on 16 March herbal cannabis with an estimated street value of £125,000 was seized in Limavady and two men charged.
On 1 April in a separate incident, officers seized cannabis with a street value of around £300,000 in the Antrim area.
- Illegal gambling operation
On 14 March officers carried out eight searches and arrested two men as part of a major investigation into alleged illegal gambling and money laundering. Officers searched business and residential properties in the Lurgan, Dungannon, Antrim and Belfast areas.
- Tobacco seizure
On 14 March officers searched a vehicle that had crossed the border into Derry and Strabane. 50,000 cigarettes were seized and the driver arrested on suspicion of evasion of excise duty estimated at between £12,000 and £15,000.
PSNI officers and staff continue to carry out a diverse range of duties, set against a difficult financial background. The underlying threat posed by violent dissident republicans and PSNI’s responsibilities for policing legacy issues presents additional challenges and can result in some difficult decisions for policing as well as the allocation of finite resources.