| The major elements of the report are as follows:-
(i) Human rights. We recommend a comprehensive programme of action to focus policing in Northern Ireland on a human rights-based approach. We see the upholding of fundamental human rights as the very purpose of policing and we propose that it should be instilled in all officers from the start - in the oath they take, in their training, and in their codes of practice and in their performance appraisal system.
(ii) Accountability. We believe that the people of Northern Ireland should be responsible for the policing of Northern Ireland. We propose a new Policing Board, to replace the Police Authority, comprising both elected members and independents, with substantially enhanced powers of oversight over the police. Government, whether it is central government or the Northern Ireland Executive once policing is devolved (as we believe it should be, as soon as possible), should be able to set long-term objectives or principles for policing, but it should be the Board that sets medium-term objectives and priorities and holds the police to account for delivering those objectives. We recommend a less direct relationship between Government and the police.
We also recommend that each District Council area should have its own District Policing Partnership Board, providing local level forums at which district police commanders should be able to discuss policing issues with local community representatives.
In the interests of transparency, we propose that the Policing Board and the District Policing Partnership Boards should all meet in public. And that the police themselves should develop a culture of transparency, the presumption being that everything should be available for public scrutiny unless it is in the public interest to hold it back.
For matters involving covert policing (which every police service needs) we recommend legislation that is fully compliant with the European Convention of Human Rights, the same for Northern Ireland as for the rest of the United Kingdom, and an independent commissioner for covert law enforcement in Northern Ireland as well as a complaints tribunal.
On complaints more generally, we endorse fully the recommendations made by my colleague Dr Maurice Hayes in his 1996 report concerning a Police Ombudsman, and we make some proposals as to how that new office should work to best effect.
(iii) Policing Style. We recommend that policing should be seen not just as something that the police do to or for the community, but something which is everyone_s responsibility. Partnership between police and community is the essence of the new policing style we recommend. Wherever possible - and clearly this is a matter which is going to be linked to the security situation - we want to see neighbourhood policing teams, and a reorientation away from the response policing which so dominates police work in Northern Ireland (as it did in many of the other police organisations we visited until quite recently). We make some recommendations about how policing might change in a situation of relative peace, including the removal of emergency legislation. We recommend the immediate closure of the holding centres. We are not able, however, to recommend a general disarmament of the police in present circumstances. Nor are we able, as we had all hoped we would be, to recommend that plastic baton rounds should no longer be used, because we have been unable to find any alternative technology - other than live fire - used by police elsewhere or under development, which can address the threat from petrol bombs and blast bombs. But we do make some recommendations about public order policing which should reduce the need for resort to plastic rounds.
(iv) Organisational Change. We recommend a decentralised structure for the police, with a district command corresponding to each District Council area. District commanders would report direct to headquarters, not through divisional and regional layers of command as now. They would have a great deal of devolved authority. A slimmer and less hierarchical structure, with qualified civilians taking over management of personnel, finance and administration, will, we believe, enhance both the efficiency and effectiveness of the police. We also believe it will create an organisation that gives lower level and mid-level managers - from Sergeants to Superintendents - much more job satisfaction. And we make a number of recommendations concerning personnel management, including more generous provision for injured officers and for police widows.
(v) Numbers. The security situation may be better than it was, but it is too early to be confident about the longer term. Public order policing continues to demand thousands of police officers. For these reasons and others we are recommending a regular police service of about 7,500 officers - less than the present 8,500 but more than a comparably sized police area in the rest of the United Kingdom would have (and about the same proportion in relation to the population as in New York City). We propose that the Full Time Reserve should be phased out. (There are 2,900 Full Time Reservists, so adding that reduction to the reduction of the regulars, we are proposing that the full time officer strength be reduced from 11,400 to 7,500.) We believe that the reservists, and the regular officers who opt for early retirement, should be treated generously and we give an indication of what we believe that should mean.
(vi) Composition and Recruitment. All parts of society need to feel that the police service is their police service, and that does not happen unless all parts of society are represented in the police. Catholics only constitute 8% of the present police service. We are recommending that recruitment be outsourced to a specialist agency and that there should be an enhanced recruitment level for ten years, taking equal proportions of Protestants and Catholics (which accords with the demographic balance among people in their teens and twenties in Northern Ireland), all of whom must qualify in terms of merit. (The system we propose has been used successfully by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.) We estimate that the proportion of Catholic officers in the police should more than double in four years and reach 30% or more within ten years. This is very fast, compared with experience elsewhere in the world, but we believe it is achievable. It does, of course, depend upon leaders of the Catholic community - clergy, schoolteachers, politicians and others - helping to ensure that young Catholics go ahead and apply to join the police.
We also want to see an increase in the number of women joining the police, and staying in the police; and we make some proposals about that, and about ethnic and other minorities.
(vii) Training. The training, education and development of officers and civilians in the police is an integral part of the transformation we are proposing, and we make several recommendations, including a strategy and a budget for training, a new police college and training programmes that involve much more contact with civilians than exists at present. We also propose a substantial new investment in information technology.
(viii) Culture, ethos and symbols. Taken together, our recommendations will have a great impact on police culture - creating a more open, more accountable, less hierarchical, more modern organisation, more integrated with the community it serves. We believe that such a transformation - such a New Beginning - requires symbols that match the substance of that transformation. Our aim is to take the politics out of policing and we cannot do that if the symbols of policing are themselves political statements, or seen as such by a substantial section of the community. We propose a neutral name - The Northern Ireland Police Service - and new symbols to match. We see no reason, however, to change the colour of the uniform, which is distinct to Northern Ireland and cannot credibly be seen as a political statement of any kind. The Police Federation and many officers have recommended that the cut of the uniform should be updated, and we agree with that; but the colour should stay.
We know that the name is an emotional issue for some people. Some may see a change of name as a slight to the sacrifice and service of thousands of RUC officers who have performed their duties with professionalism and courage, and who have faced, and in many cases suffered, injury or death. This is emphatically not the case. We are transforming the RUC, not disbanding it. The memorials to the sacrifices of the past should remain as they are and where they are. But the greatest memorial of all will, we believe, be a peaceful Northern Ireland with agreed institutions including an agreed police service, with participation and support from the community as a whole. That is a vision which, more than any symbol, might make some sense of the sacrifices of the past.
(ix) Overseeing change. The changes we are proposing amount to a comprehensive transformation of policing, in which several different parties have responsibilities - government, the new Policing Board, the police service itself, and others. We have proposed an oversight Commissioner - an eminent person from somewhere other than Britain or Ireland - to conduct periodic reviews of the process of transformation.