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Take politicians off Policing Board, urges former chief

By Liam Clarke

Published 12/08/2015

Sam Pollock was speaking after the latest political wrangling on police handling of parades
Sam Pollock was speaking after the latest political wrangling on police handling of parades

The former chief executive of the Policing Board has said that it should slash its membership and get rid of most of the politicians.

Sam Pollock was speaking after the latest political wrangling on police handling of parades.

He said: "Personally, I think you would be better without any politicians at all on the Policing Board, but certainly as a first step they should be in a minority.

"It should be a public board not a political board.

"Academics, business people and people with a stake in the community are the type of people you need more of."

There are currently 19 members on the Policing Board, compared to 12 on the Probation Board.

"For the foreseeable future the key political parties here will fall out along political lines on issues that should be kept separate from politics," he said.

"On the Policing Board I saw the worst aspects of that.

"It is just too tempting for politicians when they get their hands on the levers of power for policing.

"They can't not be politicians, they can't not represent their constituencies, but the discussions in a board meeting of police use of resources or tactics, strategy or priorities, all that is brought into a political domain.

"The board should not be there to do that."

Our complicated and politicised Policing Board structure is unusual in UK terms, where directly elected Policing Commissioners are more important.

Mr Pollock would prefer more appointees from "academia, business, the unions and the community sector".

His analysis runs across the commonly accepted view the board needs to be political to ensure buy-in and build confidence. When Chris Patten drew up the idea, he hoped it might be a model for other regions.

Mr Pollock, who worked for 15 years in policing between the Ombudsman's office and the Policing Board, believes the political pressure became too much when Sinn Fein got involved.

He added: "When Professor Des Rea (a former chairman) was in charge he maintained quite a strong neutrality and professionalism.

"That was partly because Sinn Fein were not part.

"When he went the tendency was for the parties to try and use the independents as pawns to achieve their objectives."

He argued: "This all has an impact on parading.

"There is always fear or favour in terms of how those issues are looked at

"And all the political manoeuvring slows down decision-making."

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