Belfast Telegraph

PSNI chief Simon Byrne: Investment in neighbourhood officers is a great opportunity to modernise for the future

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne talks to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne talks to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Simon Byrne has promised to pump more resources into neighbourhood policing and to give it more prominence in the coming months.

Mr Byrne, who assumed the mantle of Chief Constable two months ago, said community policing will be a focal point in the modernisation of his force.

The former boss of Cheshire Police, who's on a five-year-contract with the PSNI, outlined some of his plans during an interview at police headquarters yesterday.

He also said his tenure would see a focus on the future rather than leaning towards the past.

"Among the big themes is a commitment to invest more resources into neighbourhood policing and to give it more prominence within the conversation of the PSNI," Mr Byrne said.

"There's a great opportunity to focus on the future.

"I've spent a lot of time out on the beat with local officers in the countryside and in urban areas. I enjoy it and it's part of my job. I've been made to feel very welcome and I've had a warm response.

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"While the conversation here is often about big events and big issues from the past and complex investigations but, generally, the message I get from people is that when you ring the PSNI up you want the phone answered.

"When the phone's answered, you want the expectation that a police officer is going to come and see you and deal with your crime or incident effectively and promptly and I think that's where I want to spend more of our operational focus."

When asked if he was concerned that policing is currently ineffective, Mr Byrne replied: "There's always room for improvement in any organisation".

Mr Byrne said the PSNI has "finite resources" that have "gone into tackling terrorism and serious and organised crime" because of Northern Ireland's "history".

He added: "But actually I want to invest more resources into neighbourhood policing and to have that conversation with the Policing Board to get the support to do it."

One of the issues close to the top of Mr Byrne's in-tray is rebuilding confidence in the PSNI, particularly with the nationalist community.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that when he was with the Met he looked into boosting ethnic representation by studying reforms at the PSNI which were introduced to increase Catholic recruits.

Now, though, he said he doesn't see the 50-50 recruitment process, which was introduced as part of the Patten policing reforms, as the answer to the current Northern Ireland policing problem.

"I don't think the time is right for 50-50 because I don't think we need it to close the gap," he said.

Instead, he said nationalists could be encouraged to consider a role in the PSNI by "people from the Catholic community outside with influence" and "role models".

Mr Byrne added: "There's also people like me. I've come from a jurisdiction outside to commit my time and policing experience here. My message would be to join what I think is a fabulous organisation."

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