09 September 2005

Today in history: Report urges sweeping reform of RUC


09 September 1999

Badge should change, says report

The Royal Ulster Constabulary should undergo wholesale reform, a report published by the Police Review Commission has recommended.

Report chairman Chris Patten acknowledged some of the recommendations would be difficult to accept by the police force at the frontline of terror in Northern Ireland.

Among the proposals of the commission were the suggestions the RUC change their name to the "Police Force of Northern Ireland" and adopt a new oath and badge.

The reforms, intended to make the police force more acceptable to all people in Northern Ireland, received the approval in principle of the British government but a mixed reaction from the RUC itself.

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam said "Mr Patten has put together a report that gives hope for a better policing system."

'Shoddy piece of work'

But a member of the senior RUC officers union, told the BBC that while it welcomed many of the reforms it disagreed strongly with others.

Chief superintendent Hugh Wallace said they were "disappointed and hurt in relation to the change in the name and symbolism".

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble also objected to the proposed name change and called the Patten Report the "most shoddy piece of work I have seen".

The mostly nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party broadly welcomed the report, but a spokeswoman for Sinn Fein said it did not go far enough and said the police force should be disbanded.

Mr Patten said the RUC needed to be transformed but not disbanded and memorials to murdered colleagues should remain.

"But the greatest memorial of all will be a peaceful Northern Ireland with agreed institutions - including an agreed police service," he said.

In Context

An act implementing many of the recommended changes was passed by the UK Parliament in November 2000.

The RUC changed its name to the Police Force of Northern Ireland on 4 November 2001.

The uniform and badge were changed in March 2002 and the first recruits of the new service graduated on 5 April 2002.

Key Recommendations

Change of name to "Northern Ireland Police Force"
New oath and badge
Force cut from 13,000 to 8,000 officers
Raise level of Catholic recruits from 8% to 30%
The Police Authority to be replaced with a Police Board which would include Sinn Fein
All changes to be scrutinized by an international commissioner

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