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Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK
Violence 'may wreck' police reforms
There has been months of violence in east Belfast
There has been months of violence in east Belfast
Rising crime and sectarian street violence could wreck a major programme of police reforms in Northern Ireland, according to the man overseeing the changes.

Tom Constantine issued his warning after months of rioting in Belfast which has stretched security resources to the limit.

Mr Constantine is overseeing reforms following the changeover from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the Police Service of Northern Ireland last November.


Group violence directed at police officers...can threaten the entire concept of police reform

Tom Constantine

In his fifth report, the oversight commissioner said the support of the entire community would be needed if the major changes were to be achieved.

He said: "Group violence directed at police officers as these try to preserve peace, can threaten the entire concept of police reform.

"This environment of crime and violence creates a foundation for the growing threat of organised crime in Northern Ireland."

Meanwhile, the PSNI has said it agreed with comments in the report which said the reforms could be threatened by increasing crime and street violence.

Assistant Chief Constable Roy Toner said: "I would wholeheartedly agree with what the oversight commissioner is saying in relative to street disorder and particularly sectarian violence."
Roy Toner:
Roy Toner: "I agree with oversight commissioner"

Mr Constantine, the former chief of police for New York State, accepted significant change had been achieved.

But his 120-page document, published on Tuesday, expressed concern in several key areas where the new Police Service of Northern Ireland still falls short.

These include:

  • Delays in producing a plan for fully integrating Special Branch with CID.

  • Setting up District Policing Partnerships (DPPs) to hold police to account at grass roots level.

  • Staff shortages hampering police commanders' ability to do their job properly.

    Tom Constantine: Overseeing reforms
    Tom Constantine: Overseeing reforms

  • Failure to recruit civilians that could free up officers to go on patrol.

  • Soaring sickness levels.

  • No plan for sorting out the issue of reserve officers' futures, both full-time and part-time.

  • Little progress towards setting up a new police training college.

    Mr Constantine delivered his second report of 2002 - which deals with the period up to May 13 - following work by a team drawn from top US and Canadian law enforcement and legal experts.

    Although he was appointed for a three-year period in May 2000, the commissioner has admitted it could take up to 10 years for all the Patten recommendations to be achieved.

    His latest evaluations have, however, found areas of progress including the release of the first Policing Plan by the body set up to scrutinise the PSNI.

    Recruitment

    Mr Constantine also recognised the police's "major accomplishment" in issuing new uniforms in April to match legislation on emblems and flags.

    But the issue of Special Branch's controversial merger with Crime Branch remained to be fully grasped, he said.

    Mr Constantine noted the PSNI had submitted a "limited" plan in response to the change recommendations.

    With major reviews and investigations involving Special Branch, Mr Constantine pointed out the delays meant his evaluation on merging Special Branch with CID would be postponed until next spring.

    The commissioner also voiced concern that the 29 District Policing Partnerships still had to be established, despite the launch of a recruitment drive for independent members on Friday.

    Sinn Fein is the only one of Northern Ireland's four main parties which has refused to accept Northern Ireland's new policing arrangements.

    Meanwhile, the leader of the SDLP said he believed the new chief constable was committed to implementing change in the police service.

    Speaking after a meeting with Hugh Orde on Tuesday, Mark Durkan said he believed the new chief constable was not in denial about the scale of what remained to be done.

    Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy said she was encouraged by the Oversight Commissioner's assessment that significant progress has been made.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    BBC NI's security editor Brian Rowan:
    "Tom Constantine has outlined his areas of concern"
    Tom Constantine, Oversight Commissioner:
    "Public disorder is a major drain on police resources"
    Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

    Key stories

    Background

    OTHER SPECIAL REPORTS
    See also:

    10 Sep 02 | N Ireland
    29 Aug 02 | N Ireland
    16 Oct 01 | N Ireland
    21 Aug 02 | N Ireland
    30 May 02 | N Ireland
    Internet links:


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