Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Lack of total backing for PSNI still a worry

'It is in our interests that the PSNI is given full support in its fight against crime because criminals can strike at any time' (stock photo)
'It is in our interests that the PSNI is given full support in its fight against crime because criminals can strike at any time' (stock photo)

Editor's Viewpoint

The past continues to haunt the PSNI. This is one of the conclusions that can be drawn from Perceptions of Policing and Justice: Findings from the 2017/18 Northern Ireland Crime Survey, which shows that confidence in the police here is 10% below that enjoyed by forces in England and Wales.

The same difference is noted when people were asked if the police were doing an excellent or good job in their area.

To young people in Northern Ireland the past may seem like ancient history, but it is sufficiently recent to still contaminate the reformed policing service.

It was only in January 2007 that Sinn Fein finally signed up to supporting policing and justice here.

And it would seem self-evident that the lower figures noted above owe a lot to republican and nationalist historic - and continuing - ambivalence towards policing.

While there was an initial surge of Catholic members to the PSNI, bringing the percentage of the force from that background to 30%, dissident republicans have attempted to quell acceptance of policing by killing and maiming a number of Catholic officers and intimidating their families.

One statistic that police can take solace in is the fact that 84% of respondents, an increase of 11%, felt the PSNI treats Catholics and Protestants equally.

A perceived partiality from the largely Protestant RUC was ruthlessly exploited by republicans during the Troubles.

It was also encouraging that some 140 people came forward to give evidence to the police following the recent murder of journalist Lyra McKee by dissidents.

The feeling, however, must be tempered by the fact that to date none of that evidence seems of sufficient quality to justify a prosecution of the alleged killers.

Policing, especially in a community of divided loyalties and allegiances, requires a nuanced response, and feelings that policing is not effective in tracking down dissidents or loyalist paramilitaries feeds into the feelings of discontent.

More responsible voices within the broad nationalist community - mainstream political parties and Church leaders - need to be more vocal in calling for people from that community to support policing.

It is in our interests that the PSNI is given full support in its fight against crime because criminals can strike at any time.

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