The increasing security threat in the North is seen by police as a major barrier to delivering good service to communities, a report said.
The threat affected the ability to patrol or attend requests for assistance and created a continuing need to use officers for public order duties, Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland said. It found that overall customer service was taken seriously by senior management with the PSNI.
The North is facing the most severe threat for some time from dissident republicans who blew up Constable Ronan Kerr, 25, in an under-car bomb on April 2. A building society was also bombed in Londonderry on Saturday.
The report said: “The increasing security threat was a constant background to the work of PSNI officers and was seen as a major barrier to delivering a good customer service to communities.
“The impact of this was widespread, for example in relation to officers’ priorities, the ability to patrol or attend requests for assistance, the continuing need to use officers for public order policing and the level of resources required to address the dissident threat.”
The ability to employ mobile police stations was also affected.
An additional £245m has been granted by the British Government to the PSNI to combat the dissident threat.
Police told inspectors they were unable to deliver good customer service because of the perceived pressures of work and bureaucracy.
“It was clear from interviews with a wide range of officers at the point of service delivery that they felt constrained by a variety of issues including perceived pressure of work, the security threat and unnecessary bureaucracy,” the report said.
It added: “Supervisors and other leaders spoken to concurred with these observations and indicated that their focus was on what the police could do with resources available to them rather than what could be achieved to meet customer needs.”
The 42-page report, PSNI Customer Service, was published today. It focused on how people were dealt with by the PSNI and how their needs were met.
The inspection found that overall customer service was taken seriously by senior management with the PSNI.
Chief inspector Michael Maguire said: “We commend the commitment shown to improving how the police engage with the communities by the chief constable and welcome the work which is ongoing to translate this vision of personal, professional and protective policing into day to day service delivery.”
Inspectors found evidence that in the absence of widely understood guidance and direction about what this meant to service delivery, some police districts had developed their own strategies and approaches.
Mr Maguire said: “This initial lack of clarity meant the chief constable’s commitment was being interpreted in different ways across some districts which could lead to a lack of consistency for those receiving a service from the PSNI.”
Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said in the time which has elapsed between this inspection report being carried out and published, the PSNI has made significant progress on the majority of recommendations.
“Last month we launched our policing commitments, which clearly set out how we intend to increase community confidence through delivering personal, professional and protective policing service,” he said.
“These commitments were developed through consultation with communities and representatives right across Northern Ireland. They put communities and victims first. They build on what we already do at our best and what we’re determined to do more consistently.”