A group of young people discuss their experiences of policing and their aspirations for the future. The programme also airs the differing views of adult commentators on policing and compares changes in South Africa's policing with those proposed for Northern Ireland.
In this important time for Northern Ireland, the police service, like many of the state's institutions and bodies, is being re-assessed. Because of the symbolic importance of policing in Northern Ireland, this discussion can be emotive and painful. The programme attempts to be sensitive to the feelings of all interested parties while not avoiding the core issues.
The programme opens with a quick look at the history of uniformed policing. The role and expectations of policing have increased greatly since the industrial revolution.
We are then introduced to the experience of policing the divided society of Northern Ireland. The deep political and religious divisions associated with the very nature of the state have caused many problems for the Royal Ulster Constabulary - almost 10% of the people who died during "The Troubles" were RUC officers.
With the context set we meet a discussion group from the Children’s Law Centre in Belfast. Members come from all over Northern Ireland and from different political, social and religious backgrounds. Many have been directly affected by incidents during the troubles and have experienced policing during these incidents.
The group’s open and reasoned discussion on policing forms the core of the programme. We periodically leave the discussion to look at examples of policing and listen to the thoughts of various contributors.
During the discussion we hear comments and dialogue on attitudes towards the police in Northern Ireland, both individual and community perceptions. The relatively small input young people made to the Patten Commission on Policing is commented upon and communication between the Police and youth in general is examined.
The role of women in modern police services is also discussed, as is the global trend to put Human Rights - both of victims and alleged offenders - at the heart of policing.
The programme has two main case studies, both Police Sergeants. Stephen Jones runs the Laganside Neighbourhood Policing Unit in Belfast. He has recently won the Community Police Officer of the Year Award, beating candidates from 39 other forces. He describes his 20-year career and the particular dangers and difficulties he faced. He explains that community policing has been made very difficult because of violent incidents, especially where "Public Order Policing" was required. However Sergeant Jones welcomes the relative peace and political progress made to date.
Laurence Ndaba tells us of his public order police unit in Durban, and of policing in South Africa in general. Policing there has been going through a difficult process of change since the introduction of democracy in 1994. The main problems for the police are rising crime rates, low pay and morale, a violent police culture and under-representation of non-white people. Under these circumstances changing to a non-aggressive, human rights-based police service is very difficult.
The programme concludes with the hopes and aspirations regarding policing of the main adult contributors and of three young people from the Children’s Law Centre group. The programme offers no conclusions but a range of views which can be discussed after viewing.