Oversight Commissioner Al Hutchinson's assertion that Northern Ireland policing has undergone a 'remarkable transformation' was last night (Tuesday) broadly welcomed as a positive endorsement of the PSNI.
Delivering the 11th report into the implementation of the Patten policing recommendations, Mr Hutchinson said he had no doubt that policing was now moving in a positive direction.
"Given a societal backdrop devoid of full community and political support, and the absence of a functioning local assembly, the progress that has been made to date is all the more remarkable," he said.
The former Canadian policeman said that the fact that 38,000 people had applied to join the PSNI since 2001 showed policing was now seen by many as a "responsible and desirable" career to consider.
While Mr Hutchinson broadly praised the changes in Special Branch, he insisted that more needed to be achieved.
"There have been changes at the top, but I wouldn't give them a full pass yet," he said.
"We have to see behaviours translated onto the ground, much like we do in human rights and community policing, so those remain issues that require longer evaluation."
Mr Hutchinson said Chief Constable Hugh Orde's decision to reduce the Full Time Reserve by half was correct, due to the reduced security threat.
He pointed out that the reduced PSNI would still be twice as large as many forces in Britain.
The oversight commissioner further raised concerns at the continued high levels of sickness within the PSNI and the fact that he could find no evidence of a comprehensive audit of the PSNI's resources.
Mr Hutchinson said this called into question the PSNI's ability to gain maximum efficiency and effectiveness in regard to its sizeable resources.
He described the PSNI's failure to operate an exchange scheme with the Garda as 'disappointing' and highlighted the lack of action taken to alter the appearance of heavily fortified police stations since 1999.
However Mr Hutchinson said the absence of political stability continued to make it difficult to achieve acceptable policing.
"Police reform on this magnitude does not occur in a vacuum but takes place in an environment of real people with genuine concerns and expectations.
"The absence of full political and community support is a barrier to fully observing the agreement's goal of a new beginning in Northern Ireland, with a police service capable of attracting support from the community as a whole."
NIO minister Ian Pearson said the commissioner's report recognised the "commitment" of the PSNI in taking forward "unprecedented" changes in policing.
Policing Board chairman Des Rea said Mr Hutchinson's report reflected extensive progress, while drawing constructive attention to outstanding areas of concern.
Assistant Chief Constable Roy Toner said the dedication of PSNI officers had been responsible for driving the changes in policing forward.
The SDLP's Alex Attwood described the report as "proof positive of the pace of policing change" and asserted that the report vindicated his party's decision to join the policing board.
However Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly rejected claims that policing was now moving forward insisting that the changes had failed to achieve either accountable or representative policing.