ABSTRACT

Establishing the new institutional framework of policing in Northern Ireland was, by any standards, a massive endeavour. The Inspector of Constabulary described it as ‘probably the single largest change process undertaken by any police force’ (HMIC 2001: 2). The NIO established a ‘Patten Action Team’ and the PSNI a ‘Change Management Team’ to coordinate their respective activities,1 but the network of agencies comprising the Policing Board, District Policing Partnerships and Office of the Police Ombudsman were key components of ‘the new beginning’ envisaged by the Patten Commission and the most visible expression of reforms which extended beyond the police organization. Their success was crucial in ensuring that the police would be held accountable to the public and in establishing mechanisms through which the ethos of ‘policing with the community’ would be enacted and regulated. The political divisions in Northern Ireland, however, inevitably asserted themselves in terms of the operation of these organizations. This chapter builds on the analysis of the Patten Report outlined in the previous chapter and addresses three interrelated issues. First, I examine the implementation of the Patten reform programme. Second, I consider the establishment and operation of the Policing Board, the District Policing Partnerships and the Office of the Police Ombudsman. Third, I analyse the impact of these changes on operational policing and on public attitudes to the PSNI.