Police chief says PSNI recruitment problems wider than 50:50 policy
Simon Byrne said he would not rule out a return of the positive discrimination tool but he would not advise it at the moment.
Simon Byrne has praised the Catholic Archbishop for raising concerns about the falling number of police recruits from his community.
However, the chief constable said he still believed it was not the time for the reintroduction of the controversial 50:50 recruitment policy.
Archbishop Eamon Martin called for the return of 50:50 to ensure that Catholic and Protestants are again joining the PSNI in equal numbers.
After an initial surge in Catholic intake following peace process policing reforms, the numbers within the PSNI have been falling again – a trend in part attributed to the ongoing threat posed by dissident republicans.
While Mr Byrne said he would not rule out a return to 50:50, he added that the representation problems facing the PSNI are wider than that single policy.
He highlighted that pay rates are also a problem in attracting new recruits.
“I applaud the comments from the Archbishop that has put this issue back in the public domain and I know there’s a live debate needed about how we get the PSNI more representative of the communities we serve,” he said.
“I think the debate needs to be wider than 50/50. Yes, I recognise we need to recruit more Catholic officers but also we need to make the PSNI more diverse and reflective of communities in general.
“So we need to recruit more women, we need to recruit more people from working class loyalist communities and indeed reach into other communities, like the LGBTQ community, to make sure that the people that police our streets reflect the people who are on those streets.”
On 50:50, he added: “I wouldn’t rule it out because it think it would be unwise to give away something and close down that sort of avenue.
“But I actually think this is an emotive issue and it’s one for politicians to resolve. I can give advice. My advice at the moment is I don’t think we need it, we have got a new campaign that starts in a few weeks and we will track progress to see if we increase the representation across all those fields as we progress.”
He said legacy issues, and historic allegations of police collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, were also a “blocker” on Catholic recruitment.
Mr Byrne added: “Some of the feedback I get is, whether you’re Catholic or members of other communities, we don’t actually pay enough as a new employer.
“So in a vibrant economy where people make choices, we pay a new police officer just over £20,000 a year, and we want to see how we can improve that offer over the years ahead.”