Public confidence in PSNI on rise - 51% believe they’re doing a good job
Confidence in policing in Northern Ireland is well below levels in England and Wales, new figures show.
The findings emerge in a report, 'Perceptions of Policing and Justice: Findings from the 2017/18 Northern Ireland Crime Survey'.
Only 68% of Northern Ireland respondents expressed confidence in the PSNI compared to 78% in police forces in England and Wales.
Just 51% here rated the police in their area as doing an excellent or good job in the Department of Justice survey.
While this figure has increased from 41% a decade ago, it is lower than the equivalent rate in England and Wales (62%).
Some 36% of people in Northern Ireland said police were doing a fair job while 13% rated their performance as poor or very poor.
Only 38% of people agreed that the police and other agencies seek their views about anti-social behaviour and crime issues that matter in their local area, while 43% felt police were dealing with these issues.
Three-fifths of Northern Ireland respondents to the survey thought the criminal justice system as a whole was fair but only 44% believe it is effective. This compares with 69% and 53% respectively in England and Wales.
However, 84% of people here believe that Catholics and Protestants are treated equally, an increase of 11 percentage points on the first police confidence survey published in 2003/04.
As in previous years, 32% of those surveyed said public confidence in the criminal justice system here could be improved if tougher sentences were imposed.
A further 18% called for more action on anti-social behaviour and minor crime, while 17% said they want more offenders brought to justice and a more visible police presence on the streets.
One of the most senior Catholic members of the RUC, Peter Sheridan, said yesterday that he believes low confidence in police here is partly linked to the ongoing absence of a functioning devolved government at Stormont.
Mr Sheridan, now the chief executive of Co-Operation Ireland, served 32 years in the police here, firstly as an RUC officer, before retiring in 2008 as a PSNI Assistant Chief Constable.
He added that the "unfinished business" of dealing with the legacy of the Troubles, as agreed at Stormont House in 2014, is still affecting the police service here.
"The police are seen as one of the front faces of government and so when you don't have one in place then there is public dissatisfaction," he said.
"There are still the outstanding issues of the conflict and the fact that we haven't dealt with legacy in Northern Ireland means the past continues to contaminate the new policing service."
Mr Sheridan also pointed out that at the time of the survey, Northern Ireland did not have a functioning Policing Board to scrutinise the work of the PSNI and engage with the public on policing issues.
Until last December, the Policing Board had not met since the collapse of Stormont in January 2017 which took away the board's legal authority to carry out its work.
The board resumed meetings after a new Bill from Secretary of State Karen Bradley was approved in the House of Commons.
With George Hamilton due to retire from his role as PSNI Chief Constable next month after five years in the job, Mr Sheridan said retaining confidence in policing will remain a key concern for whoever takes over the post.
"Police take their legitimacy from the public and therefore the higher the confidence you have in the community, the better likelihood that people will come forward to report incidents and assist in investigations," he added.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs welcomed the report.
"Confidence in the police service and accountability mechanisms is critical to the delivery of successful Policing with the Community. I am pleased to see that overall confidence in policing and our accountability remains high," he said.
"And, while more respondents than 10 years ago feel we are doing a good or excellent job at a local level, we are not complacent and will continue to work hard in the communities we serve to increase that figure."