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A Reference, Engagement and Listening (REaL) event took place with the Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist (PUL) community in March 2023. This was structured around the five pillars of the 'Here for You' Public Engagement Vision. A note covering the discussions at the event was shared with attendees and below is a summary of the main issues raised alongside actions taken by the Police Service to address these to date.

Discussion Topics

Attraction and Recruitment

1. The PSNI’s policy around notifiable membership was identified as a barrier to considering a career in Policing

2. The entrance qualifications are set too high for working class PUL communities

3. The PSNI should focus on youth and school engagement to combat the influence that paramilitaries have on the PUL community; this influence deters young people from considering a career in Policing.


1. Engagement from the PSNI is generally personality driven and a perception exists that this only takes place when Police need something

2. The Service needs to improve its cultural competence to aid understanding and engagement with the PUL community

Procedural Fairness

1. ‘Two-Tier’ policing was repeatedly highlighted as a concern with the Bobby Storey funeral and anti-protocol rallies in Markethill highlighted as examples

2. Particular issues around:
a) Police reaction to the Clyde Valley Flute Band in Londonderry during an ABOD parade where they displayed Soldier ‘F’ symbols in 2019; and
b) Differential treatment of communities by allowing Police to parade in uniform as part of Pride but not allowing this in Orange Order or other Loyal Order parades

3. Local Accountability and Neighbourhood Policing
1. ‘Two-Tier’ policing was highlighted again as well as a desire for a more visible and accessible service

2. The high turnover of staff negatively impacts on relationship building and trust

Actions Taken

1. Notifiable Membership: A paper was agreed by the Service’s Strategic Management Board in late 2023 around ‘Conflict of Interest and Declaration of Notifiable Membership’ which should help to address this issue. The automatic notification of membership of a set list of groups will no longer be required and instead a Service Instruction is being developed which will make it a requirement for all officers and staff to review their memberships and identify any conflicts of interest which will need to be declared.

2. Entrance Qualifications: Applicants are currently required to have a minimum of five GCSEs (or equivalent) at A*-C grade, including English Language. This is not going to change but it should be noted that equivalent qualifications from outside the UK are also acceptable and a list of recognised ones can be made available.

3. Youth Engagement: The Police Service launched its Children and Young People Strategy in June 2023 and a Youth REaL event was hosted at Newforge in November 2023. Work is ongoing to develop the youth work experience programmes that are hosted in all Districts. A bespoke range of school materials have been refreshed and updated in the last 10-12 months. We considered the results of a survey undertaken with Education Authority colleagues to identify the main issues which schools routinely ask PSNI to deliver, and based on this have drafted relevant materials. We have also liaised with CCEA in doing so to ensure that the material is relevant and that it reflects the requirements of the NI Curriculum. For the primary sector there are lessons on Online Safety, Being safe (Strangers/not just strangers) and the Role of Police and People who Help Us. For the post primary sector the lessons deal with ASB, Drugs, Online Safety and Sextortion. In addition, colleagues in Roads Policing deliver age appropriate lessons to children in Primary schools and also to older children in Post Primary who are moving towards becoming young drivers.

4. Cultural Competence: The Strategic Community Engagement Team (SCET) continues to develop a programme of cultural awareness events for Commanders across the Service. The aim of these is to provide key decision makers with a better understanding of cultural sensitivities which should be considered as part of the planning and conducting of operations across Northern Ireland. Events have been conducted with the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, ABOD (visits to their museums), GAA, LGBT Pride groups, the Belfast Synagogue and the Belfast Islamic Centre. These have all been well received and we would welcome further suggestions for events.

5. Cultural Audit: The Service completed a cultural audit in 2023. The Police Community section of the Strategic Community Impact Assessment contains a summary of this. The report highlights that there is a lack of understanding amongst employees on what Equality, Diversity and Inclusion mean in the workplace and therefore some of the barriers and biases which exist are not being addressed. There is also an implementation gap between the intentions voiced around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and meaningful change happening in the organisation.

6. ‘Two-Tier’ Policing: The Service has taken steps to address any perceptions around ‘two-tier’ policing. The Service Executive Team took a decision in June 2023 that Police Officers and Staff would not participate in uniform in the Belfast Pride parade, following a review of a previous decision taken in 2017. The expectations created by statutory obligations, the ‘Off Duty Standards’ Policy and Code of Ethics around impartiality prohibit officers from wearing their uniform or being identifiable as police when engaging in ‘cause issues’. This decision was welcomed at the time by the DUP. Furthermore, a number of incidents around notification to the Parades Commission have occurred recently where the PSNI has taken a consistent approach to dealing with any potential criminality, regardless of the community group or background of those involved.

7. Clyde Valley Flute Band: Police Scotland conducted a review into the incident and the recommendations were shared with ABOD and the Greater Shankill Policing Focus Group in an effort to address concerns around how the Service handled this. A separate meeting with ABOD is also due to take place on 23 February where this will be discussed. It contains eight recommendations:

- Recommendation 1: The PSNI should consider reviewing the delivery of Gold Strategies to ensure the strategic objectives are clear, concise and achievable.

- Recommendation 2: The PSNI should review the training, purpose and use of Police Liaison Officers within the United Kingdom and consider whether the re-introduction of PLOs could benefit future operations.

- Recommendation 3: The PSNI should apply version control and date stamps to all planning documentation.

- Recommendation 4: The PSNI should review how it gathers and disseminates all relevant information and intelligence to ensure strategic, tactical and operational commanders are sighted on all developing information and intelligence. The production of an event/operation specific intelligence assessment should be considered.

- Recommendation 5: The PSNI should consider the appointment of Shadow Commanders to encourage the learning and development of other Commanders who may be required to command this large event in future years.

- Recommendation 6: The PSNI should review how it contacts and accesses parade organisers at future events ensuring they are suitably located to assist resolve issues and influence participants.

- Recommendation 7: The PSNI should review Force policy with regard to deployment of negotiators and consider sufficient flexibility to support significant incidents where the use of trained negotiators could support public and officer safety.

- Recommendation 8: The PSNI should review the use of Bronze Community or Bronze Engagement roles to undertake engagement with key stakeholders on behalf of the Silver Commander during events and operations.
These recommendations have been accepted and implemented by the Service where possible.

8. Local Accountability: The Reference, Engagement and Listening (REaL) model has been shared with all Districts and there is now a pack available on the PSNI intranet system to aid Districts in running their own events. To date, South Belfast conducted one around tensions related to an increase in Race Hate Crime with the BAME community. In addition, Causeway Coast and Glens, Derry City and Strabane and Antrim and Newtownabbey Districts are in the process of developing local events which may assist in the development of their Local Policing Plans.

9. Police Accessibility and Visibility: Chief Constable Jon Boutcher told February’s meeting of the Policing Board that the decline in Officer numbers, due to reach 6,358 by the end of March 2024, “cannot continue and necessitates the commencement of recruitment from April 2024”. It will take time for the benefits of this to be realised but it will assist in addressing some of the concerns around reduced NPTs across all Districts.