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 4th 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 and 24 May 2011. The appointment of nine Independent Members to the Policing Board on 1 July 2015 marked the most recent reconstitution of the Board. In June 2016, as a result of the Assembly Elections, seven new Political Members joined the Board.