Belfast Telegraph

PSNI: 7,500 apply for just 100 new constable jobs

By Deborah McAleese

The PSNI received almost 7,500 applications for 100 police constable posts during its first recruitment drive in three years.

Despite a severe terrorist threat, an increase in loyalist violence, the flag protests and instances of serious social unrest and rioting – the organisation was inundated with applications during its initial selection process.

And several thousands more are expected to apply during phase two of the PSNI recruitment campaign, which is due to be launched tomorrow.

Finances permitting, the PSNI is hoping to have recruited an additional 378 police constables by next year.

The recruitment drive could lead to a slight growth in police numbers which have been on the decrease since the creation of the PSNI in 2001. Last year Chief Constable Matt Baggott demanded additional funds to recruit new officers.

"The recruitment of these new constables should bring the overall strength of the PSNI up by a couple of hundred. The Chief Constable believes that this is enough to stabilise the situation," said Policing Board member Jonathan Craig.

Northern Ireland's Police Federation – the body that represents rank-and-file police officers – warned, however, that despite the hiring of the new recruits the PSNI would still "be stretched beyond its limits", especially as large numbers of officers were taking retirement packages.

Within the space of four years the strength of the PSNI has decreased by an estimated 600 full-time officers, 200 part-time constables and almost 400 full-time reserves.

"A career within the police service is an admirable and commendable career. We should be very pleased by the number of men and women out there who are still wanting to join," said Terry Spence, chairman of Northern Ireland's Police Federation,

"Despite the fact that police officers on and off duty are being targeted for murder every day of the week and can be the target of vicious, frenzied rioting, there are people from all sections of our community who are very keen to join the police," he added.

But Mr Spence warned: "The concern of the Police Federation is that there are only 100 new recruits when we are haemorrhaging 250 officers a year.

"We are very concerned about the long-t erm resilience of the PSNI considering the very real challenges that officers are facing. We have been warning for a long time that the organisation is being stretched beyond limits."

Outgoing Chief Constable Matt Baggott has identified several potential ways to boost the force's strength.

As well has recruiting new constables, the PSNI hopes to recruit some experienced officers from other forces to help replace expertise lost by retiring officers.

And by civilianising a number of police jobs, more officers could also be freed for frontline duties.

Story so far

In July 2010 the PSNI was forced to freeze recruitment as the policing budget faced £224m cuts over four years. Recruitment was reopened last year for 100 new constables. 7,500 people applied. A second recruitment phase for constables is due to be launched this week.

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