Editor's Viewpoint: Trust in PSNI in west of city must be rebuilt
A worrying report from Co-operation Ireland points to deteriorating relationships between the PSNI and the people of west Belfast.
According to the research, there are a number of factors contributing to this state of affairs, which include a general sense of distrust in the police and the perceived sporadic nature of PSNI involvement in their communities.
All of this is disappointing, given the changes that have taken place in the last 20 years, and in particular the shift in the political climate that saw Sinn Fein lend its support to the PSNI. For their part, senior officers have also taken steps to establish and foster better working relationships with people in the area.
While there is no doubt about the magnitude of the decision by Sinn Fein, there has been a clear sense that the party's support for policing has at times seemed half-hearted.
Recent criticism voiced by its representatives of a PSNI operation launched to search for a dissident weapon in Dunmurry did nothing to dispel those concerns.
Equally, some people would claim that Sinn Fein has failed to do enough to encourage young nationalists to join the force, with some Catholic PSNI recruits speaking about the ongoing opposition they have faced from within their own communities.
This was borne out by the Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin, who recently said the number of Catholics applying to join up seems to have stalled.
At the same time, the work of the PSNI in west Belfast and other nationalist areas is being hampered by the continued threat of dissident attack, which means that officers have to respond carefully to callouts in case they are being lured into an ambush by terrorists.
It must also be said that some of the concerns about policing as expressed by the people of west Belfast are shared across the province, including the frustration with the slowness of the criminal justice system and outcomes which too often do not appear to fit the crimes.
These are issues to be addressed across the board, involving the input of politicians - unfortunately still not sitting at Stormont - as well as prosecutors and the judiciary.
It is clear that relationships between the police and the people of west Belfast and other areas need to be improved. This will require a great deal of work, but the effort is needed on both sides.