Belfast Telegraph

Chief Constable: Change needed to stop falling numbers of Catholic PSNI officers

SDLP MLA calls for return of 50-50 recruitment

The number of Catholics in the PSNI could fall warned the Chief Constable.
The number of Catholics in the PSNI could fall warned the Chief Constable.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has said the number of Catholics serving in the PSNI will continue to fall unless changes are made to recruitment.

Around 32% of PSNI officers are currently from the Catholic community, while Catholics make up around 50% of the population of Northern Ireland.

SDLP Policing Spokesperson Dolores Kelly called for a return to 50-50 recruitment in an attempt to boost the numbers of Catholics joining the force.

The Chief Constable told the BBC's The View programme that the application rate and appointment of Catholics "falls well below" what it should be.

However, he did say he believed "the organisation is more representative than it's ever been."

"When we look at recruitment rates into the organisation, then both the application rate and the success rate of people from the Catholic community falls well below that which it is in broader society, i.e. in and around 50%," Chief Constable Hamilton said.

"We're sitting today currently at just over 32%, but actually the intake rate from people from the Catholic community is such that that figure is going to start to dip if nothing changes."

Mr Hamilton is set to retire as Chief Constable later this month and will be replaced by former Cheshire Police Chief Constable Simon Byrne.

He said that the PSNI had made changes in an attempt to fix the problem, including hiring consultants on the issue, but that it didn't make enough difference.

Mr Hamilton called on civic leaders in the "Catholic/nationalist community" to encourage people to pursue a career in policing.

Chief Constable George Hamilton
Chief Constable George Hamilton

"That is where the big gap is, that's where the big void is - we need people to be encouraged to take on the honourable profession of policing and needs to come from the leadership of the Catholic/nationalist community," the Chief Constable said.

SDLP MLA Mrs Kelly said there needed to be greater "visibility" around Catholic police officers so they can act as role models for potential recruits.

When the PSNI replaced the RUC in November 2001 a policy of 50-50 recruitment of both Catholics and Protestants was introduced in an attempt to boost the number of Catholics in the force.

At the time the policy was introduced Catholics made up around 8% of the police force. The policy was discontinued in 2011.

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