Chief Constable's Formal Report - Northern Ireland Policing Board 7th July 2016
The past month has brought a wide range of opportunities and challenges for policing in Northern Ireland.
Legacy issues remain a demanding area of work, as we attempt to balance the resource and finance implications of dealing with the past against those of dealing with the present.
Allegations of impropriety by some student officers within the Police College left members of the PSNI Service Executive Team deeply disappointed and resulted in disciplinary consequences for those concerned. All involved received written warnings under the student officer misconduct procedures and a clear explanation from an Assistant Chief Constable regarding the need for unquestionable integrity and high ethical standards for those who aspire to hold the office of Constable. The 54 student officers who were unable to show that they achieved the required academic standard on their own merits have been required to complete the 22 week training programme in its entirety. Their training started on 4July 2016. A review of processes at the Police College is ongoing and updates will be provided in relation to this aspect in due course. The public rightly expects high standards of their police officers and additional scrutiny is being applied to ensure that these standards are met.
STRATEGIC ORGANISATIONAL ISSUES
There are a number of reports and groups that impact on the strategic direction of the organisation and PSNI are keen to work alongside the Policing Board on these matters. These include the Programme for Government, Fresh Start and associated panels and reports, such as the Assessment on Paramilitary Groups in NI and the Joint Agency Task Force, as well as the Organised Crime Task Force. In order to ensure we maintain grip, consistency and reduce duplication of effort, we have appointed Chief Superintendent, Barbara Gray to act as ‘Gold’ Strategic Lead, with ultimate overview of all these areas. Chief Inspector Catherine Magee will also be dedicated full-time ‘Silver’ Lead, responsible for progressing PSNI’s contribution and de-conflicting any cross cutting issues.
ORGANISED CRIME TASKFORCE ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2016
On 29 June 2016, the Organised Crime Taskforce annual report for 2016 was launched. The report highlights a number of achievements. Over £11m worth of drugs were seized over a 12 month period, 59 potential victims of human trafficking were rescued and substantial reductions in fuel laundering were achieved. Cash in Transit robberies and tiger kidnaps have also been virtually eliminated. These successes are a result of effective partnerships between community, private and voluntary sectors.
The running cost (Resource DEL)budget for 2016/17 is £749m including additional security funding which has been adjusted following the outcome of June Monitoring. As part of June Monitoring, PSNI was able to exchange £4.3m of resource budget for capital budget to fund specific pressuresincluding extension to Serious Crime Exhibits Store and New Biometric System.
Although it is still early in the financial year, there are challenges ahead particularly in relation to legacy costs, the impact of the Voluntary Exit Scheme for police staff, and police officer headcount continuing below desired levels leading to extra strain on existing police officers and pressures on overtime budgets.
A funding bid for the three year period to 2019/20 has yet to be formally commissioned by Department of Finance (DoF). However, PSNI are continuing preparations in advance of a formal process and have recently agreed our Strategic Assumptions for Budget Planning Process to enable work to commence over the summer months regarding our budget requirement. We will continue to update the Board on our progress.
KEEPING PEOPLE SAFE
Keeping People Safe is our policing purpose and on a daily basis we are working to tackle community priorities such as; drugs supply, anti-social behaviour, burglary and child sexual exploitation, all against the backdrop of a severe terrorist threat.
On 20 June 2016, 1.51kg of suspected explosives, in the form of four small blocks, was recovered from Maeve House in the New Lodge area of North Belfast. Initial appearance would suggest that they are similar to other explosives that were later found to be Semtex. However, the items will need to be forensically examined to fully confirm that they are plastic explosives. It is not possible to confirm the origins of this substance at this early stage.
PSNI is continuing to deal with a huge amount of work in relation to legacy issues. We are in the process of resubmitting a business case in relation to Legacy Inquests and we are hopeful money will be released in order to progress this very significant area of work.
PSNI is also working closely with the Department of Justice in relation to the establishment of the Historical Investigations Unit. As we have stated before, the formation of this Unit provides an opportunity for a structured and coherent approach to dealing with the past, allowing the PSNI to concentrate primarily on keeping people safe today.
Following the publication of the Police Ombudsman’s report into the brutal attack carried out at the Heights Bar, Loughinisland, on 18 June 1994, PSNI Legacy and Justice Department is scoping out investigative actions where the PSNI have a locus. Any such investigative opportunities will be progressed in line with the existing Case Sequencing Model which will prioritise actions accordingly. The murders and attempted murders at Loughinisland have been the subject of a number of police reviews and investigations, focused solely on bringing to justice those who committed these terrible crimes. It should be noted that no recommendations were made for PSNI in the Loughinisland report and no actions remain outstanding. This has been acknowledged by the Police Ombudsman.
The Police Ombudsman has identified failings in the original investigation and the PSNI response to the Ombudsman’s report has been clear; where failings exist, or the Police Ombudsman believes that wilful criminal acts have been committed, they should be investigated by PONI and the PSNI will assist and co-operate fully. The Police Service has always maintained the highest expectation that its officers conduct themselves with professionalism. Where there is evidence of this professionalism falling below the expected standard, or evidence of the commission of criminal acts, those officers should be held to account.
Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, from Bedfordshire Police, has now been appointed to lead Operation Kenova, the investigation into the alleged activities surrounding an alleged army agent known as Stakeknife. PSNI are working closely with Chief Constable Boutcher and his team and will continue to do so as this investigation progresses. However, funding continues to be the significant challenge due to the absence of underwriting from the Northern Ireland Office or the Northern Ireland Executive. As a result of this financial commitment, there will be impact on other areas of policing.
PSNI remains committed to working closely with European countries to keep people in the UK safe from organised crime, cyber attack, terrorism or violent offenders. This operational requirement must be maintained as the UK leaves the European Union.
It is now for the Government to negotiate the terms of our relationship with Europe but we will work with them to ensure we retain our ability to share intelligence, biometrics and other data at speed and to work with foreign police forces on linked investigations, enquiries and arrests.
HUMAN RESOURCES UPDATE
- Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) - update
During the first three tranches of VES, 175 colleagues accepted an offer to leave our Police Service. This represents a 56% uptake rate of the 314 formal offers made during the first three tranches.
In the final tranche – tranche four - 504 applications were considered, 225 received an unconditional offer, 126 staff received a conditional offer and the remaining 153 did not receive an offer.
Of those police staff that received an unconditional offer, 126 staff have accepted and will leave our police service on 30 September 2016. This represents a 56% uptake rate. For the remaining 126 staff that received a conditional offer, we can confirm that the panel met on 29 June 2016 to consider whether any further formal offer could be made. In reaching a decision the panel considered the acceptance rate of the unconditional offers, the impact on organisational resilience and business continuity. As there was a sufficient uptake rate (56%) from those who received an unconditional offer, no further police staff can be permitted to leave through this Scheme. Therefore, we can confirm that the Scheme is now closed.
We will now work collaboratively in the coming weeks and months to ensure that we optimise our remaining police staff in the best and most efficient way to address our organisational priorities to Keep People Safe.
- Launch of new Individual Performance Review (IPR)
A new IPR process has been launched for all officers and staff within PSNI. The new process is less bureaucratic and has been designed to be more ‘user friendly’ while supporting an outcome based approach to service delivery. The new process will support staff management and skill development within our organisation.
SERVICEFIRST CHANGE MANAGEMENT UPDATE
- Priority Based Resourcing (PBR)
The PBR process that is taking place within PSNI 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.
Business leads from over 70 areas of policing have already delivered presentations to PBR panels. As part of the second phase of this process, suggestions presented will be explored in more detail and operational implications considered. Decisions will then be made about how the suggestions can be progressed and implemented.
PSNI is proud to have four of our officers recognised through the Queen’s Birthday Honours. These officers deliver a policing service that contributes to Keeping People Safe. In addition, two police officers won Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Both officers showed great commitment and dedication and we are delighted to see them honoured in this way. At the British Association for Women in Policing Awards, Toni Hannigan was named as Police Staff Member of the Year and Constable Clodagh Dunlop and D/Constable Alison Abernethy were highly commended in the special recognition and excellence in performance categories.
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) also won the Innovation Award at the Northern Ireland Civil Service Awards 2016 for the Indictable Case Pilot Project, which was a collaborative project with PSNI and NI Courts Service.
- Launch of domestic abuse campaign
PSNI and Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSPs) launched a new campaign on 8 June 2016 to encourage people to report incidents of domestic violence. The police respond to an incident of domestic abuse every 19 minutes but we still believe there are a large number of incidents still going unreported. Between March 2015 and April 2016, there were 28,392 domestic abuse incidents reported to police, which is an increase of 105 incidents compared to the same period last year.
PSNI welcome the increase because we believe this shows confidence is increasing in the police. Very often people who are being abused feel isolated, vulnerable and frightened. Through the campaign we are encouraging all victims regardless of age, race, gender or sexuality to come forward and report the matter to the police.
- Help provided to individuals with mental health issues
Police Officers frequently deal with individuals with complex mental health difficulties who are vulnerable. On 8 June 2016 officers dealt with a 15 year old male who was self-harming using a knife. Officers were able to talk to the young man and persuade him to put the knife down. They then administered First Aid and ensured he was given the medical treatment he required.
In a separate incident, on 28 June 2016, police responded to a report of a missing person. This female is diagnosed with Disassociated Personality Disorder. Officers located her unresponsive and not breathing, having made an attempt to take her own life. Officers commenced CPR and were able to revive her prior to the arrival of the ambulance.
In another unrelated incident, on 6 June 2016 officers received a call reporting a male was threatening to take his own life at a bridge. Officers attended and spoke with a very distressed man who was on the wrong side of the bridge railings and threatening to jump. An officer spoke with him for around 15 minutes, providing him with reassurance. The man was eventually pacified and agreed to come down.
- Web design competition for young people
Nine talented young people have taken part in the PSNI’s REFRESH competition to compete for a coveted place in its Young Digital Team. The shortlisted group pitched their creative ideas to a panel of experts on how the existing Youth Section within the organisation’s website could be revamped to make it more appealing and relevant to their age group. The successful candidates selected from this part of the process will win an iPad Air 2. The idea behind the competition is to ensure that the PSNI website includes policing information young people are interested in and that affect them.
- Launch of new Business Crime Action Plan
PSNI is delighted to have jointly launched a new action plan for tackling crime within the business community alongside the Department of Justice, Policing Board and representatives of the business community. Continued partnership working is essential if sustainable solutions are to be developed.
- UEFA Euro 2016 Tournament
A group of PSNI officers were selected to work as part of an international policing team at this year's UEFA Euro 2016 Tournament in France. The officers were deployed to France, at the request of the French Authorities, for the duration of Northern Ireland’s involvement in the competition to support the French Policing Operation and help ensure a safe and trouble-free tournament.
Whilst in France the officers liaised with the French Police Commanders to monitor fan behaviour in the cities, fan zones, on transport and at the stadiums and assist them when required in dealing with any potential problems. They also provided assistance in relation to the two deaths of football fans that occurred in France.
In Northern Ireland police operations were also in play to ensure the safe movement of fans to and from the various fan zones that had been established.
A number of significant parades have already taken place without incident. Dialogue plays a key role in the management of any event or occasion that involves the gathering of large volumes of people. Police are encouraged by the level of positive dialogue that is currently taking place in our community, it creates an optimistic outlook for the rest of the parading season. Of course, in any planning process contingencies are required and from a policing perspective this means mutual aid capacity has been explored.
There are undoubtedly challenges ahead in the coming months, particularly in relation to determining resource requirements; however, the organisation has shown time and time again that it is resilient and that its’ people are resourceful and committed to our policing purpose of Keeping People Safe.