Policing board review makes recommendations to improve PSNI professional standards

PSNI logo uniform Policing Police Officer Northern Ireland stock image still photo 
Credit: UTV
It was carried out following a series of concerns raised regarding the police. Credit: UTV

A number of recommendations for improvements in PSNI professional standards have been made following several controversies, including allegations of misogyny and misuse of social media by officers.

The Northern Ireland Policing Board carried out the review following a series of concerns raised regarding the police handling of some misconduct investigations and standards of behaviour within the service.

The newly published review stated: "Analysis of the misconduct data presented to the board has identified an increase in cases concerning officer sexual predation, misogyny, domestic abuse and the use of social media groups.

"There was also evidence of delay in the processing of misconduct cases within the Professional Standards Department (PSD) and also the wider justice system when cases required the involvement of the Police Ombudsman, the Public Prosecution Service and the NI Court Service."

Among the cases considered by the review was that of PSNI civilian employee Sinead McGrotty who last year told the BBC that she felt she had been let down after making allegations of sexual assault against a serving officer.

It also considered allegations in a BBC Spotlight documentary which included claims that two police officers manipulated a suicide victim's body and shared photos and a video online.

A separate Spotlight investigation carried the allegation that a number of serving PSNI officers had been members of a WhatsApp group which exchanged sexist, pornographic and racist messages.

The review has made six recommendations to the operation of the current police misconduct system:

  • The board will continue to review the current code of ethics to identify potential improvements and modernisation.

  • The board should write to invite the Department of Justice to review the current misconduct regulations in order to identify improvements in the use of existing legislation provision which would enable cases to be progressed expeditiously.

  • The board should write to the Department of Justice, to invite them to consider what more can be done to address delay in the criminal justice system.

  • Following a review of PSNI PSD, the force should report to the board on the outcome of the review.

  • The PSNI should review and update its policies in relation to whistleblowing, vetting, sexual misconduct and abuse of position for sexual purposes.

  • The PSNI should ensure that appropriate policies and procedures are in place to communicate expected standards of behaviour for police staff and how behaviour falling short of that standard will be addressed.

Policing Board chair Doug Garrett said: "The review has also identified some areas that will require legislative change and other matters relating to the misconduct process that will require consideration by the Department of Justice.

"The board is mindful of the negative impact this issue has had on both public confidence in policing and the reputation of the PSNI.

"In the course of this review, the board has recognised the significant efforts being made by the PSNI senior leadership team to make sure all police staff are aware of the standards and behaviours expected within the service.

"The board remains committed to making sure that it delivers on its oversight duties so that the PSNI meets the standards rightly expected by the community in the delivery of the policing service, and will report on progress made in implementation of these recommendations."

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