At the end of a troubled week when the PSNI were literally in the firing line |during three nights of rioting, it is important for the community to heed the words of the Chief Constable Matt Baggott.
In an eloquent address to the Policing Board yesterday, he appealed for people “to lift the burden from the police”.
His words were timely, because for too long the people of Northern Ireland have been treating the police as a “catch-all” to solve a wide range of problems. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to do so. The role of the police is to maintain law and order, but they cannot solve deprivation and other social issues.
Nor can they be expected to tackle political issues. Their job is to hold the ring, but it is up to the politicians to find solutions to the thorny problems of leading and encouraging people to live together peacefully.
The Chief Constable and his senior officers have made this point repeatedly and it is time that the penny dropped among the politicians and the community leaders. As Matt Baggott himself said, “policing is coming out of politics and politics is coming out of policing, and that is a really |important development.”
The way forward is to encourage mutual respect, as the First Minister has suggested, and to create the kind of society where people are willing to live and let live. This is no easy task, bearing in mind recent events, but the apology by the Royal Black Preceptory to the clergy and people of St Patrick’s parish, and Father Sheehan’s gracious acceptance of this, have set the right tone for others to follow.
Being better neighbours is the surest way to build a better society, and members of the PSNI have an important role to play in neighbourhood policing.
As our series of articles have illustrated during the week, this policy is beginning to pay dividends, and it must continue, in the best interests of everyone. We cannot let ourselves become mired in the bad old ways.