Dissident threat and red tape 'hindering police'
The increasing threat from dissident republicans and too much bureaucracy is preventing police from delivering a good enough service, some officers have said.
The finding is contained in a new Criminal Justice Inspection report into how the police engage with communities.
It found there was an inconsistent approach in the PSNI into how telephone calls were handled.
There were also problems with how victims of crime were kept informed.
CJI chief inspector Dr Michael Maguire has called for more consistency.
"We found that people would have had difficulty accessing the police. When they arranged to meet someone, the police officer would not be there or they would not be kept informed as to how their case was progressed," he said.
"The reverse of that was that we saw very good examples of where individuals got an excellent service from the police."
The inspection focused on how service users were dealt with by the PSNI, how their needs were met and "how this could impact on the outcomes for the individual and the organisation".Lack of clarity
It found that overall customer service was taken seriously by PSNI senior management.
The CJI said it commended Chief Constable Matt Baggott's commitment to improving how the police engage with communities and welcomed the ongoing work "to translate this vision of personal, professional and protective policing into day-to-day service delivery".
However, inspectors found evidence that in the absence of "widely understood guidance and direction" some police districts had developed their own strategies and approaches.
Dr Maguire said "this initial lack of clarity" meant the chief constable's commitment was being interpreted in different ways across some districts.
He said this "could lead to a lack of consistency for those receiving a service from the PSNI".
"Communication of how the PSNI intends to deliver against this commitment needs to be unambiguous so that staff have a clear message," Dr Maguire said.
He added that this work should be underpinned by better co-ordination of other improvement projects across the organisation.
The inspection report also highlighted the need for the PSNI to make customer service central to the work of all staff by ensuring "it became embedded in its performance management and development system".Policing Board
Dr Maguire said: "We support the work the PSNI has undertaken to date to implement a new performance appraisal system which will link the development plans of all police officers and staff to targets related to the delivery of personal, protective and professional policing and their performance in relation to their individual roles.
"This new system was due for implementation in April this year and is critical to supporting an ethos within the organisation where the customer is the main focus for staff, particularly those in customer facing roles."
Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the Policing Board said service delivery was a core issue in this year's policing plan and the development of the Policing with the Community 2020 Strategy.
"This report highlights some of the very positive work that has been taken forward across the service and also some areas where further work is required," the spokesperson said.
"The new board will wish to have early discussions with both the chief inspector of criminal justice and the chief constable on the report's findings and recommendations."