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Sorry seems to be the hardest word for our top cops

By Suzanne Breen

Published 04/04/2015

Suzanne Breen
Suzanne Breen

Everybody gets it wrong sometimes, even our top cops.

I don't expect the PSNI to wear sackcloth and ashes after a senior officer claimed young women here just weren't fit enough for the force, but a 'mea culpa' from former Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay would have been nice.

Instead, the police have done a swift U-turn on their fitness testing rules without even a whisper of an apology to all the women affected.

An entire generation of females were written off as unfit by a force led by lads not exactly known for their toned torsos.

That certainly doesn't make them bad cops but it means they'd no right to pass judgment on a nation of young women.

Physical fitness experts have long advised police forces all over the world that some tests are inherently biased against women because they include tasks to suit the male figure.

If eight out of 10 women were failing a test that nine out of 10 men passed, it stands to reason there could be something wrong with the test and not the women.

Now the police say women who fail will be given a second chance and if that doesn't help increase the number of successful female candidates, "further radical steps" will be considered.

This doesn't seem like a serious recruitment policy from an organisation that knows what it's doing. It looks like making it up as you go along after you've been caught out. The PSNI's volte-face is of course to be welcomed even if it's too little too late for many women.

It should never have come to this.

The fact that in 2013 less than one in six of the force's new recruits were women should have set off alarm bells. The new face of policing in Northern Ireland wasn't meant to be so overwhelmingly male.

If either Catholics or Protestants had been so under-represented, there'd have been an immediate outcry.

I doubt that any senior officer would have dared to blame the disadvantaged group for their own under-representation.

If they did, you can be damned sure there'd be a very public and fulsome apology. Women, on the other hand, aren't deemed deserving of even a mumbled 'sorry'.

Belfast Telegraph

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