Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly: PSNI must continue to evolve

By Gerry Kelly

The Patten Report - published 15 years ago today - began a process of change to ensure we can have a police service which is effective, efficient and accountable.

The Good Friday Agreement and the Patten Report were designed to bring about a police service that can enjoy widespread support from – and is seen as an integral part of – the community.

Rigorous oversight mechanisms have been put in place to ensure the accountability and transparency of policing.

The introduction of unaccountable agencies into the policing arena in the north could set back progress. All aspects of policing must meet the same standards of accountability.

If members of the National Crime Agency are to get the powers of a constable, then they must operate under the same accountability mechanisms as a constable.

Of course, the situation is not perfect. Where policing falls short, we now have measures to address it.

The Office of the Police Ombudsman was set up to provide an independent, impartial mechanism to deal with complaints against police.

One of the key recommendations of the Patten Report was that "policing with the community should be the core function of the police service..." It must be part of every aspect of policing – not just a piecemeal set of initiatives.

Efforts have been made to make the PSNI representative of society as a whole, especially during the time of 50:50 recruitment, but we are not there yet.

Dealing with the past is also a challenge. It goes beyond policing and requires a political deal.

We must ensure the Haass Report is implemented and that the wider community and the two governments take responsibility for dealing with the past.

We must ensure that policing with the community becomes a reality and that impending budget cuts don't impact on equality and accountability.

Huge strides have been taken over the last 15 years. Sinn Fein is determined to continue with that progress.

  • Gerry Kelly MLA is Sinn Fein spokesperson for policing and justice and a Policing Board member

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