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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 16:36 GMT
Policing reforms praised
Tom Constantine
Tom Constantine is concerned about some areas
The man overseeing policing change in Northern Ireland has said there has been an excellent start to the reforms.

But in his latest report, Tom Constantine, the oversight commissioner, has said he has concerns about a lack of progress in some areas.

Mr Constantine is overseeing the implementation of the changes which are creating the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

It came into being on 4 November this year to replace the former Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Virtually every request for documents in this area was either not available or not finalised

Tom Constantine

Mr Constantine is the former head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

He is also the former chief of police for New York State.

Important steps

His report, published on Tuesday, said the implementation was "the largest and most complex such task undertaken by a law enforcement agency".

Mr Constantine said the creation of the Policing Board and first wave of 50-50 Catholic/Protestant recruitment were "very important first steps in beginning the enormous amount of change that will take place".

However, his report found a "lack of documentary evidence" of policies and plans provided by the service to help them assess progress.

Mr Constantine said his team had understood from briefings that many were in place or would shortly be in place.

The chief constable has demonstrated the leadership qualities that had been necessary to take his agency through this difficult period of time

Tom Constantine

"However, many of them were not available, but there is a reasonable explanation for a lot of that. We did not give them a very long period of time to supply these documents," he said.

The commissioner praised Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan and said he was impressed with the team established to oversee the changes.

He said Sir Ronnie had been "totally open and co-operative" and had "laid bare his whole agency for us to look at".

The report said the expected period for fully implementing the changes would be between seven and 10 years.

Sir Ronnie last week announced that he was to step down as chief constable.

Mr Constantine said his replacement would continue to implement the changes and faced a difficult task.

Special branch

He said responses to requests for documents relating to training, education and development was "disappointing".

"Virtually every request for documents in this area was either not available or not finalised," he said.

The report said documentary evidence of administrative progress on issues involving special branch was not available as of 1 October.

However, he expected those issues would be addressed and corrected for future reviews.

EU Commissioner Chris Patten headed the Independent Commission on the Future of Policing in Northern Ireland which issued a report recommending sweeping changes to policing.

Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy welcomed the report.

She said: "This is another extensive and comprehensive piece of work.

"I am encouraged to note that Mr Constantine's overall assessment is that an excellend start has been made in what is a very difficult task.

"Where he has identified areas of concern, we, along with the police and the Policing Board, will seek to address them."

Oversight Commissioner Tom Constantine:
"This is going to be a long term process"
BBC NI chief security correspondent Brian Rowan:
"The commissioner says the process will last seven to 10 years"
See also:

03 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
New NI police 'will protect rights'
28 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Patten 'supports' NI Police Act
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