PSNI must attract more Catholics

Posted By: April 20, 2017

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Thursday, April 20, 2017
One of the most controversial – and effective – measures brought in as part of the Patten policing reforms was the introduction of 50:50 recruitment.

Essentially, for every Protestant recruited to the ranks of the PSNI, a member of the Catholic community also had to be appointed. This initiative, which ran from 2001 until 2011, saw the number of Catholics in the police rise sharply from 8 per cent to 31 per cent.

Of course, there were other factors at play, including the rigorous oversight procedures put in place as part of Patten and the involvement of Sinn Féin and the SDLP on the Policing Board.

While the increase in Catholic numbers was very welcome, it was still some way short of reflecting the percentage of Nationalists in the population.

Although Unionists were pleased to see 50:50 recruitment abandoned, there was a sense among Nationalists that the policy was halted too soon.

This has been borne out by figures showing the level of Catholic officers remains at around 31 percent – rather than the expected 45 per cent – despite subsequent recruitment drives.

This deficit was analyzed by Deloitte which found issues of concern, including a recruitment process which not only took far too long but which also saw many Catholic applicants, who were trying to keep their involvement secret, drop out ahead of the initial selection test at an exam center.

These practical matters are already being addressed but a harder issue to overcome is the perception the service is not inclusive.

Chief Constable George Hamilton, in an interview with The Irish Catholic, acknowledges the difficulties but wants to see greater advocacy for a career in policing from the Nationalist and Republican community.

Despite the clear progress that has been made, it is disappointing that more young Catholics are not coming forward and the despicable dissident Republican campaign of violence will be a factor for some.

But it is important we have a police service that is representative of the entire community and the PSNI must do more to convince Catholics that it is a “warm place”, in the words of Mr. Hamilton.