Former NI police officer advises on policing in divided communities
Kenneth Deane leads the EU Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support
Kenneth Deane: “I have a better understanding of divided communities in conflict working in a highly charged situation within the context of the threat of violence.” Photograph: Judith Crosbie
Kenneth Deane (51) knows about divided societies. A member of the RUC from 1980 and the PSNI until 2006, the head of the EU Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support also did a stint in Iraq in 2004 and served as deputy in the EU police mission in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“I have a better understanding of divided communities in conflict working in a highly charged situation within the context of the threat of violence,” says Mr Deane, who when he left the PSNI was chief of staff to the chief constable.
He says the most important thing is knowing the perceptions of the different communities. “It doesn’t always mean agreeing with people but it means understanding their perception.”
The 16 months he has spent in Ramallah in the West Bank where the EU office is based has seen him learn to navigate the difficult cultural landscape: in the presence of Palestinian officials he refers to “the occupation” and the “West Bank”, terms he abandons in front of Israeli officials when he talks about “Judea and Samaria”, the Israeli phrase for the West Bank.
Since he has taken over the EU mission there has been more open co-operation between the Israeli and Palestinian police, something Mr Deane says is important since “no police force can ever police in isolation”.
The office he leads includes 71 international staff from 19 countries, including Lynn Sheehan, a solicitor from Cork who previously worked in Kosovo, seconded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and now advising on the rule of law. There are also 41 local staff.
Mr Deane says his aim is to further the notion of community policing in a society where officers are often viewed with suspicion by both Palestinians and Israelis.
“People who hated the police in Northern Ireland when they met them would find them quite reasonable. It is difficult to keep hating someone if they are trying to help you,” he says.