|Police Service of Northern Ireland|
Seirbhís Póilíneachta Thuaisceart Éireann (Irish)
Polis Servis o Norlin Airlan (Ulster Scots)
Crest and cap badge
|Motto||Keeping People Safe|
|Formed||4 November 2001|
|Annual budget||£836.7m (FY 2014/2015)|
|Legal personality||Police service|
|National agency||Northern Ireland|
|Operations jurisdiction||Northern Ireland|
|Police Service of Northern Ireland area|
|Size||5,456 sq mi (14,130 km2)|
|Governing body||Northern Ireland Executive|
|Overviewed by||Northern Ireland Policing Board|
|Headquarters||Brooklyn House |
65 Knock Road
|Elected officer responsible|
1 fixed-wing aircraft
|Dogs||28Irish: Seirbhís Póilíneachta Thuaisceart Éireann; Ulster-Scots: Polis Service o Norlin Airlan)
is the police force that serves Northern Ireland. It is the successor to the Royal Ulster Constabulary after it was reformed and renamed in 2001 on the recommendation of the Patten Report.
Although the majority of PSNI officers are Ulster Protestants, this dominance is not as pronounced as it was in the RUC because of positive action policies. The RUC was a militarised police force and played a key role in policing the violent conflict known as the Troubles. As part of the Good Friday Agreement, there was an agreement to introduce a new police service initially based on the body of constables of the RUC. As part of the reform, an Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland (the Patten Commission) was set up, and the RUC was replaced by the PSNI on 4 November 2001. The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 named the new police service as the Police Service of Northern Ireland (incorporating the Royal Ulster Constabulary); shortened to Police Service of Northern Ireland for operational purposes.
All major political parties in Northern Ireland now support the PSNI. At first, Sinn Féin, which represented about a quarter of Northern Ireland voters at the time, refused to endorse the PSNI until the Patten Commission's recommendations were implemented in full. However, as part of the St Andrews Agreement, Sinn Féin announced its full acceptance of the PSNI in January 2007.
In comparison with the other 44 territorial police forces of the United Kingdom, the PSNI is the third largest in terms of officer numbers (after the Metropolitan Police Service and Police Scotland) and the second largest in terms of geographic area of responsibility, after Police Scotland. The PSNI is about half the size of Garda Síochána in terms of officer numbers.
The senior officer in charge of the PSNI is its Chief Constable. The Chief Constable is appointed by the Northern Ireland Policing Board, subject to the approval of the Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland. The Chief Constable of Northern Ireland is the third-highest paid police officer in the UK (after the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police).
Each district is headed by a Chief Superintendent. Districts are divided into areas, commanded by a Chief Inspector; these in turn are divided into sectors, commanded by Inspectors. In recent years, under new structural reforms, some Chief Inspectors command more than one area as the PSNI strives to make savings.
In 2001 the old police divisions and sub-divisions were replaced with 29 District Command Units (DCUs), broadly coterminous with local council areas. In 2007 the DCUs were replaced by eight districts ('A' to 'H') in anticipation of local government restructuring under the Review of Public Administration (RPA). Responsibility for policing and justice was devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 9 March 2010, although direction and control of the PSNI remains under the Chief Constable.
In addition to the PSNI, there are other agencies which have responsibility for specific parts of Northern Ireland's transport infrastructure:
PSNI officers have full powers of a Constable throughout Northern Ireland and the adjacent United Kingdom waters. Other than in mutual aid circumstances they have more limited powers of a Constable in the other two legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom—England and Wales, and Scotland. Police staff, although non-warranted members of the Service, contribute to both back office, operational support and front line services, sometimes operating alongside warranted colleagues.
Co-operation with Garda Síochána
The Patten Report recommended that a programme of long-term personnel exchanges should be established between the PSNI and the Garda Síochána, the national police force of the Republic of Ireland. This recommendation was enacted in 2002 by an Inter-Governmental Agreement on Policing Cooperation, which set the basis for the exchange of officers between the two services. There are three levels of exchanges:
The PSNI is supervised by the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland deals with any complaints regarding the PSNI, and investigates any allegations of misconduct by police officers. Police staff do not fall under the Ombudsman's jurisdiction. The current Police Ombudsman is former Oversight Commissioner Dr Michael Maguire, who took over from Al Hutchinson in July 2012. The Oversight Commissioner was appointed to ensure that the Patten recommendations were implemented 'comprehensively and faithfully', and attempted to assure the community that all aspects of the report were being implemented and being seen to be implemented. The Oversight role ended on 31 May 2007, with the final report indicating that of Patten's 175 recommendations, 140 had been completed with a further 16 "substantially completed".
The PSNI is also internally regulated by its Professional Standards Department (PSD),who can direct local "professional standards champions" (superintendents at district level) to investigate relatively minor matters, while a "misconduct panel" will consider more serious misconduct issues. Outcomes from misconduct hearings include dismissal, a requirement to resign, reduction in rank, monetary fines and cautions.
The PSNI was initially legally obliged to operate an affirmative action policy of recruiting 50% of its trainee officers from a Catholic background and 50% from a non-Catholic background, as recommended by the Patten Report, in order to address the under-representation of Catholics that had existed for many decades in policing; in 2001 the RUC was almost 92% Protestant. Many unionist politicians said the "50:50" policy was unfair, and when the Bill to set up the PSNI was going through Parliament, Minister of State Adam Ingram stated: "Dominic Grieve referred to positive discrimination and we hold our hands up. Clause 43 refers to discrimination and appointments and there is no point in saying that that is anything other than positive discrimination." However, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission cited international human rights law to show that special measures to secure minority participation were in accordance with human rights standards and did not in law constitute 'discrimination'.
By February 2011, 29.7% of the 7,200 officers were from a Catholic background, but among the 2,500 police staff (non-warranted members), where the 50:50 rule operated only for larger recruitment drives, the proportion of Catholics was just 18%. The British Government nevertheless proposed to end the 50:50 measure, and provisions for 'lateral entry' of Catholic officers from other police forces, with effect from the end of March 2011. Following a public consultation the special measures were ended in respect of police officers and police staff in April 2011.
As of 2017, the PSNI have announced that it will be introducing new schemes to increase the number of Catholics in the force. The PSNI is focusing on tackling the fear factor of joining the Service as violent dissident Republicans are discouraging Catholics from joining and continue to attack Catholic officers.
In September 2006 it was confirmed that Assistant Chief Constable Judith Gillespie approved the PSNI policy of using children as informants including in exceptional circumstances to inform on their own family but not their parents. The document added safeguards including having a parent or "appropriate adult" present at meetings between juveniles and their handler. It also stressed a child's welfare should be paramount when considering the controversial tactics and required that any risk had been properly explained to them and a risk assessment completed.
Armed Response Unit
Armed Response Unit (ARU) officers are trained, equipped and deployed to support district colleagues by dealing with spontaneous and pre-planned incidents where people are armed with firearms, knives and other weapons.
Some of these people will be involved in crime; a significant number of others will be suffering from mental illness or at points of crisis within their lives, posing a danger to themselves and others. The PSNI ARU provides 24/7 cover to all of Northern Ireland.
All officers in the ARU have to complete and pass a rigorous selection process and nationally approved authorised firearms course. The firearms course provides the officers with the skills to deal with armed suspects on foot, vehicle and search for armed suspects in buildings and open areas. During the course officers will also have to successfully complete the police advanced drivers course, the tactical pursuit course, advanced first aid and fitness tests.
As well as being equipped with conventional firearms, armed response officers are equipped with various less lethal technologies including attenuating energy projectiles and Tasers. They also have a fleet of performance vehicles as well as Land Rovers and armoured cars.
Headquarters Mobile Support Unit
Headquarters Mobile Support Unit (HMSU) officers are trained to Specialist Firearms Officer (SFO) and Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officer (CTSFO) standards. HMSU officers undergo a 26-week training program including firearms, unarmed combat, roping, driving, close personal protection and photography.
HMSU is the tactical unit of the PSNI.
Tactical Support Group
Tactical Support Group (TSG) officers are trained in a range of specialist tactics and deliver a highly versatile mobile resource supporting District Policing colleagues across all of Northern Ireland.
TSG provides uniformed support to investigative departments including Organised Crime Branch, Major Investigation Teams and Criminal Investigation Department (CID). TSG regularly supports partner agencies including the National Crime Agency, HM Revenue & Customs, and UK Border Agency.
Core TSG functions include public order, search, method of entry, counter terrorism and crime reduction, community safety, response to major crime scenes and a surveillance capability. TSG also provides specialist support to maritime and roads policing operations.
TSG specialist skills include: