PSNI must do more to recruit Catholics says Sinn Féin

Posted By: April 28, 2020

Allison Morris. Irish News. Belfast. Tuesday, April 28, 2020

SINN Féin has said “more needs to be done” to encourage nationalists to join the PSNI, other than just bringing them in to the organization as civilian staff.

Policing Board member Gerry Kelly was responding to a suggestion made by Chief Constable Simon Byrne, who said issue with Catholic recruitment to the PSNI could be solved by first encouraging nationalists to join the organization as civilian staff.

Catholic officers make up around 32 per cent of the organization. However that drops to just more than 19 per cent of PSNI civilian support staff.

Yesterday Mr Byrne told The Irish News he was just one in a line of senior officers who have “wrestled with this issue”.

“There’s some broader different thinking we could adopt rather than recruit in tramlines, so recruit police officers, I think that we recruit people into the police family,” the chief constable said.

“So you could attract somebody quicker for example as a call-taker in a contact center, as police staff they then like the feel of the organization, realize that there are risks, yes, but then apply to become a police officer.”

However, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said: “To say the path for them [nationalists] to go through is as civilian staff, because there never was any 50/50 recruitment for support staff, that is a bit of a false claim.

“There are also issues around whether they are getting Catholics from rural areas, from west of the Bann, and we’ve had this conversation through the board on a number of occasions.

“More needs to be done about that, and then alongside that you have the gender balance or imbalance as has occurred.”

“The fact is Catholics as well as women have not got up the ranks. They are not getting to the higher echelons of the organization in the general sense, and of course there are one or two exceptions.

“So you can’t put that down to them not being up to standard, but there is an atmosphere and a culture that needs changed.

“There is clearly more work to be done, and you can’t just put that off on others, people make up their own mind on the basis of what they see within the PSNI.”

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said the shortage of women in leadership roles was as concerning an issue of diversity as recruiting more Catholic officers.

“This has been continuous during my time on the Policing Board, the Catholic and the gender issue,” she said.

“The gender obstacles were about some of the tests, getting up through the ranks and having role models. It’s about being family friendly as well. I don’t think they [PSNI] are particularly family friendly enablers.”

Mrs. Kelly said recruiting nationalists as civilian workers as a stepping stone to serving as a police officer was just one of several of options to solve the recruitment crisis.

Superintendent Gerry Murray has proposed setting up a Catholic Police Officers Guild to provide “pastoral care” for “practicing Roman Catholics” in the service.

The SDLP MLA said this could be a good way of giving “visibility” to Catholic officers.