03 February 2006

PSNI won’t become representative of wider society in North until 2027

Daily Ireland

by Jarlath Kearney

PSNI statistics reveal that the force will not become representative of wider society in the North until at least 2027.
The projections are based on the current recruitment trends for the 9,409-strong force at January 1, 2006.
The present percentage of Catholics in the PSNI stands at just 16.39 per cent (1543 members).
It can also be revealed that only one officer from the Garda Síochána has taken part in a mutual personnel exchange – without police powers – with the PSNI since new protocols were exchanged between the Irish and British governments at Hillsborough a year ago.
The revelations emerged as PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde launched his force’s annual report in Belfast yesterday.
Figures obtained by Daily Ireland demonstrate that the PSNI is failing to implement the target of recruitment laid down by the Patten Commission report which emerged from the Good Friday Agreement.
Eight years after the agreement and six years after the introduction of the Police Act 2000, key elements of the Patten Commission’s recommendations on policing remain unfulfilled.
For instance, the Patten Commission recommended that the full-time Reserve should be disbanded, a recommendation which the PSNI has failed to fulfil.
The Patten Commission also recommended that the part-time Reserve could be significantly expanded to increase the rate of Catholic composition. Again, the PSNI has failed to progress this recommendation.
The PSNI Reserve (encompassing both full-time and part-time) accounts for 20 per cent of the force (1,890 members).
Since the reserve has historically been even worse in terms of its composition than the overall force (currently 5.9 per cent Catholic members), major changes to this element of the PSNI could impact rapidly on overall Catholic participation. However, both the PSNI and NIO have resisted implementing the Patten Commission recommendations in this regard.
The PSNI have been implementing the 50:50 recruitment programme at entry level which the Patten Commission recommended.
However, based on current recruitment trends, the PSNI is failing to meet the target for the number of Catholic police officers which the Patten Commission recommended by 2005 – namely 18.7 per cent.
By 2006, the commission said the number of Catholic police officers should be 20.6 per cent.
As the latest statistics demonstrate on January 1, 2006, the number of Catholic police officers in the PSNI is just 16.39 per cent.
Given that the number of PSNI members since 50:50 recruitment was introduced has increased at a rate of just 1.3 per cent annually, it would take over 20 years – until 2027 – for the force to achieve parity with current community representation across the North.
The Policing Board yesterday announced that it had, in principle, agreed to explore the possibility of recruiting civilians to patrol local areas with limited powers.
However, this suggestion – which has been put forward by the PSNI – does not correspond with the Patten Commission’s recommendation to significantly enlarge the part-time reserve in mainly nationalist areas.
Welcoming moves to introduce the new initiative of police community support officers, Policing Board chairperson, Des Rea, failed to address the PSNI’s failure to implement the Patten Commission’s recommendations.
“At today’s meetings, Board Members’ discussions also reflected the desire to meet and implement the requirements of the Patten Report in a way, which meets the needs of policing today, while taking account of developments in England & Wales: ensuring that the operational needs of the service are met; and guarding against any potential for PCSOs to become a route into policing for paramilitaries,” Mr Rea said.

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