Response to the Police Plan
PFC | 21 August 2001
"People can not be expected to join police while key human rights questions remain unresolved"
The Pat Finucane Centre reacted today (21 August 2001) to the British Government’s policing implementation plan by saying it could not recommend that people join the new police service because outstanding concerns about human rights have not been addressed in the new document.
"As the situation stands at present, the institutional factors that have led to human rights abuses in the past have not been adequately dealt with. In the absence of adequate change a fair-minded person joining the police would still have little or no impact on the type of policing experienced by the community" said a spokesperson for the Derry-based centre.
"While there have been some improvements, there are still a number of the key ways in which the implementation plan fails to deal with the institutional and cultural conditions within the RUC which have led to human rights abuses in the past and which could lead to their occurring again:
It will allow serving officers to continue to serve without having to take the new oath.
It recommends only the partial dissolution of the Special Branch into CID.
It provides for the Chief Constable to set policy in consultation with the Police Board, not the other way round. It is also still likely to exclude some republicans and loyalists from the Police Board and district partnerships because of past political offences. It is important that if a police force is to be acceptable in all communities then it must be properly democratically accountable. To do so it should be fully answerable to a board which includes people with the widest range of political opinions.
It relegates the District Policing Partnerships to a consultative role. This means that ultimately the force would remain unaccountable to the local community.
It allows the plastic bullet to remain in the force’s arsenal, even if new recruits are to be prevented from using them for two years. If the force remains unaccountable, there is a real danger that they will be used again.
It gives the secretary of state the power to veto any inquiry ordered by the Police Board.
It provides no mechanism for inquiries into instances of human rights abuse in the past or for dealing with human rights abusers currently serving in the force.
In 1999 Pat Finucane Centre said that although there were serious problems with the Patten Report, it considered it to be a baseline which could be worked with. The Police Act 2000 and the new Implementation Plan taken together still fall far short of that baseline. It is in the interests of the whole community that the next generation grows up with a police service with proper human rights checks and balances and one that is fully transparent and democratically accountable."