Some communities still feel disengaged from policing

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr says there needs to be discussion around why people still don't engage with police on security matters.
Analysis by Allison Morris

IN 2007 when Sinn Féin signed up to support policing in the north the vote was seen as an historical turning point in how the nationalist community viewed the rebranded PSNI.

However, changing decades of mistrust, suspicion and a mindset of fear was never going to be as simple as a show of hands at an Ard Fheis.

More than nine-years later and one of Northern Ireland's top police officers has said that information on issues considered security or political related is still not forthcoming from communities perceived as either republican or loyalist.

Will Kerr said people are happy to speak to police and pass information on other matters but there was still a wall of silence when it comes to paramilitary activity.

While some may be shocked that this remains the case, for others it is a demonstration of just how disengaged from the peace process some communities still feel.

There is a percentage of this lack of cooperation that can be accounted for because of the historical culture of fear, the memory of people being executed as informers or 'touts' still vivid for those of a certain age.

But the problem runs much deeper than that.

Questions must also be asked as to the political failing that has left a section of the community behind and how to address this disengagement from politics without further isolating those with reservations.

The PSNI must also internally reflect as to why this still remains the case.

Why when it comes to matters of security do the public still not have enough confidence in policing?

Policing in places like Ardoyne or Lurgan remains security not community lead and the mistrust and frosty relationship between police and residents shows little sign of thawing.

On the 18th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and nine years after Sinn Féin agreed to sit on the policing board something remains very wrong in some areas of Northern Ireland.

Will Kerr has acknowledged the elephant in the room and said there needs to be discussion around it, it's now for others to do the same.

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