Historically Policing in Northern Ireland has been a contentious issue.  As part of the Belfast Agreement in 1998 (known as the Good Friday Agreement), an independent commission was established under former Hong Kong Governor, Chris Patten to look at all areas of policing and to make recommendations for change.  The Commission published its Report entitled 'Report of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland' in 1999.

Following recommendations from the report, the Policing Board was established on 4 November 2001.

The Policing Board takes its powers from the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 as amended by the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2003 and has 19 members in total, including a Chair and a Vice Chair.

After suspension of the Assembly in October 2002, Members of the first Board were reappointed as Independents by the Secretary of State to enable it to continue its work.  This term of office was completed on 31st March 2006.  The Policing Board was reconstituted on 1 April 2006, 22 May 2007, 24 May 2011 and 1 July 2015. In June 2016, as a result of the Assembly Elections, seven new Political Members joined the Board.  

Following the Assembly election in March 2017, as a result of an NI Executive not being formed and a Justice Minister appointed, Members could not be appointed to the Policing Board. In November 2018, the Secretary of State for NI introduced the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018. This legislation provided for the appointment of members to the Board by the Secretary of State. The Board was reconstituted on the 1 December 2018.

The NI Assembly was restored on 12 January 2020 and the Justice Minister confirmed the appointment of new independent members with effect from 1 April 2020

Following the NI Assembly election on 5 May 2022, the Board was reconstituted by the Justice Minister on 1 June 2022 with the appointment of political members.