In deeply divided societies such as Northern Ireland the question of police reform cannot be divorced from broader political issues. This article looks at the connections between police reform and the political process, in the particular context of the recommendations of the Patten Report, which put forward a framework for a fundamental reform of policing in Northern Ireland. The problems encountered during the subsequent reform process – both political and institutional – are discussed. It is argued that the model of a decentralized and democratically accountable police service, based on the core principle of community policing, although not fully realized, offers a model for policing in societies which are becoming increasingly multi‐ethnic.
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