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Foundations for Policing: Proposals for Policing Structures in Northern Ireland - Section 5

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The Police and the Community


5.1Every democratic and civilised society depends upon the existence of stability, in which individuals and groups can enjoy in peace all the rights to which they are entitled. This requires a widely respected and supported body of law, based on shared values, upheld by co-operation between the public and the police. The police serve the community and rely on it, just as the community relies on them; their interests are mutually supportive.
5.2 The proposals in this White Paper will put in place a framework which will enable the community to influence the direction of policing, and the police to deliver policing services more efficiently and effectively. The structural reforms will also create an opportunity for significant changes in the nature of the policing service provided to the people of Northern Ireland. These proposals have been examined in the context of, and are in accordance with, Government guidelines on Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment (PAFT).
5.3It is axiomatic that policing reflects society and must change with it. The absence of a terrorist threat in Northern Ireland during the paramilitary ceasefires gave an added dimension to the need for policing change. This could be seen from the expectation that more police officers would be deployed to combat problems such as burglary, drug abuse, car crime and vandalism. The desire throughout the community for more accessible and open policing, for greater police responsiveness and accountability and for policing methods to be in tune with the demands of local communities made itself felt.
5.4The ending of the Provisional IRA ceasefire, and consequent uncertainty, has limited the changes the police can make, and altered the public's expectations. The Government is determined to press on with the reform of policing, but clearly without a reinstatement of a credible Provisional IRA ceasefire, progress will of necessity be slower and more cautious. However, the need to be responsive and sensitive to the community is already recognised; in the RUC Code of Policing Ethics, it states:
"The Royal Ulster Constabulary cannot provide a wholly effective service in isolation from other agencies in the community. Success relies on community support."
5.5To promote the development of effective community support for the police the Government proposes to lay the foundation for a stronger partnership between the public and the police by encouraging community involvement with the police and a real dialogue at local and Province-wide level. For example, once the security situation permits, the Government suggests that Police Authority meetings should be open to the public, with provision for closed sessions to deal with sensitive matters, such as personnel issues.
5.6In policing, just as in any area of public service, public trust and co-operation must be earned. Article 82 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (NI) Order 1989 (set out below) currently requires PANI, after consultation with the Chief Constable, to make arrangements for obtaining the views of the public about matters concerning policing and for obtaining its co-operation with the police in preventing crime. To help meet the remit, PANI, in conjunction with the RUC, has promoted the development of a network of Community Police Liaison Committees (CPLCs). Presently there are 29 of these Committees providing a valuable interface between the police and the community. They have attracted a wide range of members including district councillors and representatives of many other interests such as churches, the business sector, and those involved with youth work.


Arrangements for obtaining the views of the community on policing

82.-(1) Arrangements shall be made for obtaining the views of people about matters concerning policing and for obtaining their co-operation with the police in preventing crime.

(2) Arrangements shall be made by the Police Authority after consulting the Chief Constable as to the arrangements that would be appropriate.

(3) The Police Authority shall review the arrangements made under this Article from time to time.

(4) If it appears to the Secretary of State that arrangements are not adequate for the purposes set out in paragraph (1), he may require the Police Authority to submit a report to him concerning the arrangements.

(5) After considering the report the Secretary of State may require the Police Authority to review the arrangements and submit a further report to him concerning them.

(6) The Police Authority shall be under the same duties to consult when reviewing arrangements as when making them.

5.7Much has already been achieved, but more is needed to ensure full participation by all sections of the community, and that the dialogue between the community and the police service is constructive and fruitful. Participation in CPLCS, or other arrangements at a local level, should allow all sections of the community the opportunity to contribute to the development of the local policing service, and to engage, through the Police Authority, in setting overall objectives for policing in Northern Ireland.
5.8The Government wishes to build on the CPLC initiative so that all sections of society, especially those whose need is greatest, may be involved in the policing of their neighbourhoods, and contribute to debate on policing issues. The Police Authority and the Chief Constable should expand the network of CPLCS, to widen their representation and to deepen their role, taking due account of differing local circumstances. Already PANI is moving in this direction by setting up a CPLC Co-Ordinating Group which will become a focal point for the exchange of views, ideas and experience between people from different parts of Northern Ireland.
5.9Successful policing can only be achieved by consent, with the co-operation and support of individual members of society The development of local liaison arrangements, both formal and informal, will play a vital part in forging an active partnership between the police and the community Although the Government does not consider legislation would be beneficial at this stage, views will be welcome; and the Government will continue to support initiatives to enhance community involvement in policing.

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