The NIO statement, from the Security Minister Paul Goggins MP, points to the subjective 80% satisfaction with police response which, no doubt, means a box has been ticked somewhere.. and also introduces an ‘Independent’ into the title. But you can read the second annual Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s [HMIC] Baseline Assessment of the performance of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, for the period 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2006, for yourself here.. interestingly the Most Similar [police] Forces are, apparently, Nottinghamshire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Northumbria, West Midlands.The HMIC assessment [pdf file] also lists the PSNI’s strategic priorities, although it doesn’t state whether the list is in order of importance..

Strategic Priorities

 To disseminate and implement the reassurance strategy.
 Ensure the PSNI is delivering a policing service that takes account of the needs of all communities in Northern Ireland, irrespective of difference.
 To conduct the best value review (BVR) of PSNI partnerships.
 Develop communication strategies across the range of police activity.
 To promote integrity within PSNI through the prevention and detection of corrupt, dishonest or unethical behaviour.
 To ensure PSNI meets its obligations in connection with the Cory Inquiries.
 Preventing and detecting hate crime.
 Further develop an effective and consistent police response to domestic incidents.
 To work in partnership with other agencies to tackle the problem of drug abuse by supporting the Northern Ireland Drugs Strategy.
 To increase the proportion of rape offences for which a person is charged/summoned.
 Management of critical incidents.
 Transfer of national security responsibility.
 To establish a baseline for the number of crime gangs involved in national and international drug supply into Northern Ireland.
 To reduce, in partnership, the number of cash-in-transit and high value commercial/business robberies.
 To contribute to the organised crime strategy (OCS) by improving structures and processes and targeting organised crime branch (OCB) resources against those crime gangs and individuals who pose the greatest threat.
 To establish a baseline for the number of incidents of anti-social behaviour, and the number of crimes, based on the new Home Office guidelines.
 Work with partners to deliver the Northern Ireland Community Safety Strategy (NICSS).
 Work with partners to deliver the Northern Ireland Road Safety Strategy (NIRSS).
 To support the implementation of the human resources planning strategy.
 To address the Service shortfall of detectives.
 To monitor the percentage of officers’ time spent on front line duties.
 To develop a corporate programme for the civilianisation of police posts and action plans for delivery against available funds.
 To further develop and implement the gender action plan (GAP).
 To implement the training, education and development strategy and the annual, costed, training plan.
 To match training resources to support strategic assessment priorities.
 Prepare and submit the bid for funding for the spending review (SR) 2007, covering the years 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11.
 Complete annual financial statements and obtain audit clearance from the National Audit Office (NAO).
 Improve the use of the police estate as reflected within the estate strategy, including implementing the upgrade work on the appearance of police stations.
 Ensure overall police expenditure for the 2006/07 financial year (including the achievement of the 2.5% Gershon efficiency savings) falls within available funding from all sources.
 To promote and establish the ethos of policing with the community (PWC) strategy and ensure the full implementation of Patten recommendations 44–51.
 To deliver a programme of change management to create a new DCU structure.
 IS Strategy – deliver the 2006/07 elements of the call management project (CMP).
 To progress implementation of HMIC recommendations relating to the use of firearms and less lethal weapons.
 Progress the provision of a new police college.

And there’s a list of the PSNI’s major achievements 2005/6.. of which the first two are..

Major Achievements 2005/06

1. Establishment of Crime Operations Branch

One of the recommendations contained within the Patten report was that crime branch and special branch be brought together under the command of a single assistant chief constable. To that end crime operations department was formed in March 2004.

The department is structured into seven branches:
 Organised Crime
 Serious crime
 Intelligence
 Special Operations
 Analysis centre
 Scientific Support
 Serious Crime Review

Co-operation within the department, at all levels, has been evident. It has proved to be both efficient and professional, making the best use of the varied resources at its disposal to conduct complex investigations.

The year 2005/06 has proved to be successful in the dismantling of organised crime gangs, with some notable arrests of high profile criminals for offences of extortion and robbery. Intelligence gathering has become more efficient, with the timely distribution and dissemination of products. Crime operations now administers the handling of all covert human intelligence sources (CHIS), ensuring a consistent approach across PSNI. Preparation is underway for the transfer of national security from PSNI to the security services in April 2007. [added emphasis]

2. Change of attitude in the US to Policing in Northern Ireland

On appointment, the current Chief Constable concluded that there was a need to promote a more positive image of PSNI within the United States. There had been, in his view, much disinformation, which was potentially damaging to policing in Northern Ireland. The Chief Constable concluded that the only way to address this was through an organised and planned campaign to target key opinion formers and politicians with factual information so they were in a better position to make valued judgements about the situation in Northern Ireland.

A series of visits was planned aimed at providing professional, accurate and timely information to a variety of target audiences. The Chief Constable decided this was core business that he would deliver personally.

In broad terms, the approach operated at a number of levels.

Level 1: President of United States.
Level 2: Congressmen and Representatives.
Level 3: Opinion Formers. Committee on Foreign Policy, John Jay University, Irish Ambassador and a number of meetings with prominent Irish Americans.
Level 4: Pressure Groups. Brehon Law Group, Irish Parades Emergency Commission, groups brought together by the British Consul in New York.
Level 5: Wider Irish American Community. Again, this has been achieved by attending many meetings and functions at all levels during St Patrick’s week.

This strategy has enhanced relationships and lead to a substantial shift in thinking in the USA in relation to the PSNI.

And the Major Challenges for the Future

1. Normalisation

In the absence of significant terrorist activity, PSNI continues to work closely with all communities to develop trust and encourage the people in hitherto hard to reach areas to
engage with the police. There is evidence emerging of increased crime reporting in some areas of the Province, which is felt to be symptomatic of increased confidence in PSNI. Sinn Fein has not yet taken its seats on the NIPB and the board cannot be seen as fully representative of the population until this occurs. The coming months and years will be
particularly challenging for the Service until the full benefits of normalisation can be realised.

2. Threat from dissident groups and organised crime

Dissident groups and organised crime gangs still pose a significant threat to Northern Ireland. There are many groupings, formally associated or still associated with paramilitaries that have become involved in aspects of crime as terrorism has decreased. Many of these enterprises were ongoing during ‘The Troubles’ as a method of funding paramilitary activity but are now directed towards criminal gain. Counterfeit goods, the smuggling of fuel oil, alcohol, cigarettes and any products with differential tax conditions on either side of the international border are commonly used to generate criminal income. Indirect property theft, in the form of pirating of DVDs and computer games is also used to raise criminal income. A high degree of sophistication has been employed by the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF), a multi-agency approach to this problem, to try and thwart this criminality within Northern Ireland and, indeed, across the border in the Republic. Evidence is emerging that as terrorist activity decreases, former paramilitaries are becoming involved in organised crime. The Service is alert to the threat and is prepared to realign its resources to counter any potential impact.

3. The Marching Season

The marching season which, with a few exceptions, lasts from before Easter to mid September, is a difficult time in Northern Ireland as tensions traditionally rise between the
Nationalist and Loyalist communities. Of over 3,000 parades in any given year, only around 20 actually cause confrontation, violence or extremely heightened tensions. The level of resources required to police these events are high and the negotiation, planning and preparation preoccupy many DCU commanders and staff for much of the year. Managing
this series of events is easier with strong political leadership and broad consensus. When that consensus breaks down or relationships become strained, as was apparent with the
loyalist communities after the public order problems of September 2005, significant effort has to be expended to rebuild trust and confidence. The marching season will continue to be a significant drain on PSNI resources and a significant challenge for the organisation for the foreseeable future.

4. Restructure

The Service is embarking on a major restructure which will present significant challenges to the organisation, coming as it does at a time of political uncertainty and other significant challenges. It needs to approach these changes with the same organisational skills and commitment shown following the recommendations of the Patten Commission. An effective communication strategy, with the NIPB, involving all staff and stakeholders will be essential to ensure a smooth transition to the new structure.