Employment of ex-officers must be fair and transparent
Policing in Northern Ireland needs to be accountable and transparent. That is why Matt Baggott and his top team have questions to answer over the recent Audit Office report on the employment of casual staff - most of them former RUC officers.
The £44m contract should have been put out to tender and the facts should have been disclosed to the Policing Board. Yet we should not be surprised that so many former RUC officers were hired. The Patten redundancies created a pool of highly-trained officers, who were paid handsomely to leave the force in their forties and fifties. Former RUC officers have been recruited by police and security organisations worldwide. Many were in the enviable position of pocketing six-figure settlements and moving seamlessly to lucrative second careers. Paying them off to create a better communal balance within policing was politically necessary, but it inevitably left a skills shortage which couldn't be filled by the raw recruits who replaced them. That is why it made sense to recruit redundant officers - especially when the dissident threat increased. Where else would the necessary skills have been found at short notice?
As the PSNI matures, it should generate the skills it needs internally.
But, until then, employing some redundant officers on a fair and transparent basis may be the best way to plug remaining skills gaps.