Belfast Telegraph

PSNI boss wants hundreds of new officers - No return to 50-50 recruitment

Simon Byrne wants hundreds of new PSNI officers.
Simon Byrne wants hundreds of new PSNI officers.

The PSNI Chief Constable has called for the force to recruit hundreds of new officers to meet demand.

However Simon Byrne said that he did not think a return to 50-50 recruitment was neccessary.

The Chief Constable said he wanted a commitment made to policing in Northern Ireland after Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to hire an extra 20,000 officers in England and Wales by 2020.

He said that there was a "strong clamour" to get more officers on the streets of Northern Ireland.

"I want to see that replicated here so we can get back to the levels Patten envisaged of 7,500 officers," Mr Byrne told the BBC.

There are currently around 6,700 officers in the PSNI.

Mr Byrne resisted calls for the introduction of 50-50 recruitment of Protestant and Catholics saying the PSNI was "not yet back at the point" where it was needed.

"It's a very emotive issue," he said.

The Chief Constable said he wanted to "convince the people that hold me to account that we have tried every means possible to encourage people from both the catholic community and also the working-class loyalist community, who I think need a stronger voice in policing".

"We have looked at good practice, not just from the past here but from other places to encourage people that there is a good career working for the PSNI," he said.

Simon Byrne
Simon Byrne

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.

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

UUP MLA Doug Beattie backed the Chief Constable's call for increased police numbers.

"We have included this call in election manifestoes, and as the Party’s Justice Spokesperson I have raised the issue on multiple occasions with the Department for Justice, the PSNI and the previous Chief Constable. Each time I was told the PSNI had the right numbers, with the resilience to meet any unforeseen circumstances," he said.

“It is now clear that the new Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, does not see it that way and has today called for resources to increase the PSNI to Patten levels in order to meet commitments in neighbourhood policing and to meet unforeseen circumstances including Brexit. 

"This is a fundamental change of step for the PSNI and comes nearly three years after my call to ask for these extra resources."

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