PSNI Chief George Hamilton: There are those still bent on violence. Together we can ensure they don't succeed
Keeping people safe has been at the core of my policing career since it started in Enniskillen in 1985. I have worked as a police officer in England and Scotland, but I have spent the majority of my career working locally. This is my home. I grew up here and I have raised my family here. As a member of the community, almost everyone I meet shares in the same vision; to live in a safe, confident and peaceful society.
I am both a member of the community and a police officer charged with the protection of the community. I work for you; as do all the officers and staff of the PSNI. We are your Police Service. Being part of the community means we have to be ready to listen and respond to the needs of the community. We must also encourage and create opportunities for you to play a role in policing, working with us to solve problems which affect the safety and wellbeing of where you live.
Policing with the Community is the framework for policing that we will continue to build upon. On a personal level, this is about how the Police Service connects with people everyday – whether victim, witness, suspect, or member of the general public. However, Policing with the Community is also about how policing connects with our partner agencies to support the wellbeing and safety of our communities.
Having the confidence of our community is essential to our success in keeping people safe. For me, community confidence and effective policing are built on a human rights-based approach to serving the public and being comfortable with being held to account. To make Policing with the Community a reality, we must have human rights at the heart of our decision-making and we must be prepared to answer for and explain our decisions and actions. The accountability mechanisms provided by the Policing Board and the Police Ombudsman are critical elements to building public confidence in policing and under my leadership, PSNI will be fully engaged with these other vital components of policing – even if that is uncomfortable for us at times.
Policing is not easy. While our ambition to keep people safe is relatively straightforward, the world in which we operate and the demands to which we respond are hugely complex and challenging. We deal with everything from an abandoned motor car through to international human trafficking. We will also protect the vulnerable who are less visible and behind closed doors, from crimes such as domestic violence or child abuse. New crime types, such as cyber crime and increasingly complex financial crime are emerging and changing all the time. We are responding to these demands during a period of rapidly shrinking budgets.
My job as chief constable is to manage this complexity and keep the focus as simple as possible for my officers and staff. The PSNI exists to protect people, prevent crime and bring offenders to justice. I expect my officers and staff to conduct their duties with respect, courtesy and fairness for individuals and all communities. They also have a right to expect leadership from me. I will empower officers and staff to use their professional judgment and make decisions; and in return they can expect my support in the significant challenges they face in doing their difficult jobs.
There is no doubt that the financial challenges facing the service means we will have to take difficult decisions in the future. We must adapt to new pressures and challenges whilst keeping communities at the heart of everything we do. A leaner, more focused Police Service, working in partnership with other agencies will be essential and we will explore more innovative ways of delivering policing and keeping people safe. As both a member of the community and a police officer, I recognise and am grateful for how far our society has progressed in the last 20 years; however, there remain many unresolved challenges.
I am acutely aware that my officers and staff are asked to deliver a policing service while a small, but dangerous number of people who remain opposed to the peace process are actively planning attacks on my officers who are out serving the community. These individuals have proven that they pose a threat not only to police, but also to any members of the community who may get in the way of their plans. I can say with confidence that PSNI's desire to keep people safe is greater than their desire to do harm.
The lack of consensus around the issues of flags, parades and dealing with the past poses significant challenges for our society and continues to give space to those who use violence to express their discontent. The absence of an agreed long-term plan to strengthen our peace is holding our community back and places a considerable strain on policing.
In a democratic society, these are issues which we must let our elected representatives resolve. But I also believe that policing, along with many others in civic life, has an important role to play. We were part of securing the peace and have shown our ability to change and adapt for the good of Northern Ireland.
We will continue to play our part in building the peace. My vision for policing to help build a confident, safe and peaceful society can only be achieved through working together.