“I want to end on an optimistic note.”

The 18th, and penultimate, report by the Policing Oversight Commissioner, Al Hutchison, has been published – full report available here. He notes that 46 of the 175 recommendations still require completion, but that 86% of the recommendations have either been “fully or substantially implemented”. The BBC report picks up on his comments on the issue of the new Police College and its current £40million shortfall in funding.From the Oversight Commissioner’s statement

Commenting on progress the Commissioner reported that, “Some issues, such as the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly, will be subject to the ongoing political process and dialogue and will likely remain unfinished by May of 2007, when the current oversight process is due to come to an end. Other issues, such as the securing of funding for the new Police College of Northern Ireland, are more amenable to rapid decision making and progress, and certainly could be resolved by the end of the oversight mandate. It is also possible to achieve further progress in the appropriate civilianisation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and on such things as the estate and training strategies”.

The Commissioner added, “It is important to reiterate that policing includes not only the development of the Police Service of Northern Ireland but the establishment and evolution of related systems of governance and accountability in the form of the Policing Board, the District Policing Partnerships and the Ombudsman. I would like to take this opportunity to remind people once again of the significant progress made in the policing of Northern Ireland over the past five years, much of it led by these institutions. Progress has not only been demonstrated by functioning institutions such as the Policing Board and Ombudsman, but is also clearly indicated by the relatively few recommendations that remain, many of which should be completed or have demonstrated further progress by May of 2007”.

The Commissioner also acknowledged “further progress on policing cannot be measured solely by structures, systems and processes developed or put in place over time, but by the relationship of the police with those being policed, and the relative views and perspectives of each group toward the other. In this sense it must be stated again that the degree of progress and change in policing over the past five years has been significant, with steadying if not increasing levels of dialogue, trust and support for policing within all communities. The role of political leadership is equally crucial to developing effective, representative and accountable policing for all communities, but as I have noted on several previous occasions, collective politics continues to fail policing in Northern Ireland”.[added emphasis]