August 29th, 2014

Residents of east Belfast and Shankill losing trust in police

Northern IrelandBy Jamie McDowell
Winston 'Winkie' Irvine
Winston 'Winkie' Irvine

Community cops are in crisis in Ulster. They’re facing a ‘wall of silence’ when they approach local people to try to solve crimes in their area.

And they say it’s all about soon-to-go Chief Constable Matt Baggott relying on a system of community policing — ‘rather than policing the community’.


The community cops, meant to pound the beat on the pavements and build bridges with local people, say that the beef from ordinary punters focuses on representatives of paramilitary organisations now sitting on District Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.


Ordinary folk who live in districts, such as East Belfast and the Shankill, say that they have ‘lost confidence’ in the cops because police are sitting down with paramilitary representatives, who still have a stranglehold on, and are still terrorising, their communities.

 


They, and police sources, point especially to one case in point: UVF Commander Winston ‘Winky” Irvine who sits on the North Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership.


For weeks, the Sunday World has badgered the Policing Board about Irvine’s membership of the North Belfast PCSP.


That was called into question after a series of stories published by this newspaper which were highlighted by a BBC Spotlight documentary.
Now, we are told, the Policing Board have carried out their own internal investigation.


But when we asked them could we have their conclusion on the policing watchdog probe, they told us we would have to wait until March 6, when it will be ‘considered’ by the Policing Board.


However, ordinary cops on the ground are understood to have made it clear to their superiors that local communities are losing faith in the police.


One source told us: “We cannot approach the people we need to talk to about local crime — when they say they can’t talk to us in case they are seen as touts.


“We are walking into a stone wall of silence where these decent, ordinary, but still intimidated people are concerned.”