Following several controversies, including allegations of misogyny and social media abuse by officers, a number of recommendations have been made to improve PSNI professional standards.

The Police Council of Northern Ireland carried out the review after a number of concerns were raised about the police’s handling of some misconduct investigations and standards of conduct within the force.

The newly released summary said: “Analysis of misconduct data presented to the council identified an increase in cases relating to sexual exploitation by officers, misogyny, domestic violence and the use of social media groups.

“There was also evidence of delays in dealing with misconduct cases within the Professional Standards Department (PSD) and also the wider court system when cases required the involvement of the Police Ombudsman, the Prosecutor’s Office and the NI Legal Service.”

One of the cases considered in the review was that of PSNI civilian worker Sinead McGrotty, who told the BBC last year that she felt abandoned after allegations of assault against an officer on duty.

It also considered claims in a BBC Spotlight documentary that two police officers manipulated the body of a suicide victim and shared photos and a video online.

A separate Spotlight investigation alleged that several on-duty PSNI officers were members of a WhatsApp group that exchanged sexist, pornographic and racist messages.

The review identified six recommendations for the operation of the current police misconduct system:

  • The Board will continue to review the current Code of Ethics to identify potential improvements and modernizations.
  • The Council should write to the Department of Justice to request a review of current misconduct regulations to identify improvements in the application of existing legislation that would enable cases to be resolved quickly.
  • The board should write to the Department of Justice and ask it to consider what else can be done to counter the slowdown in the criminal justice system.
  • Following a review of the PSNI-PSD, the force must report the outcome of the review to the Board of Directors.
  • The PSNI must review and update its policy on whistle-blowing, vetting, sexual misconduct and abuse of office for sexual purposes.
  • The PSNI must ensure that appropriate policies and procedures are in place to communicate expected standards of behavior for police officers and how behavior that does not meet that standard will be addressed.

Police Department President Doug Garrett said, “The review also identified a number of areas requiring legislative changes and other issues related to the misconduct process for consideration by the Department of Justice.

“The Council recognizes the negative impact this case has had on both public confidence in the police force and the reputation of the PSNI.

“During this review, the Council recognized the significant effort made by the PSNI’s senior leadership team to ensure that all police officers are aware of the standards and behavior expected within the agency.

“The Council remains committed to ensuring that it carries out its oversight responsibilities to ensure that the PSNI meets the standards rightly expected by the community in policing service delivery and will report on progress in implementing these recommendations.”

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