Belfast Telegraph

PSNI 'revisiting' recruitment policies, Byrne reveals in Q&A

Chief Constable Simon Byrne
Chief Constable Simon Byrne

By Andrew madden

Chief Constable Simon Byrne has said the PSNI is "revisiting" the issue of recruitment to ensure a more equal balance of new entries.

He made the comments as he took part in an online question and answer session with the public yesterday.

In the Q&A on Facebook, he faced a wide range of questions including drug policy, funding and a controversial comment from his predecessor George Hamilton.

Mr Byrne, who took over the post from Mr Hamilton on July 1, has been extremely active on social media in his early weeks in the job.

Yesterday he visited his officers in Craigavon to face questions from an online audience.

One asked whether senior officers will look at equal recruitment from both sides of the community.

Mr Byrne said: "I get your point, we need to represent the communities we police.

"We are revisiting what works at the moment to see how we can achieve this more quickly."

A 50-50 recruitment process was introduced as part of the Patten policing reforms, and ran until 2011.

During this time the number of police officers from a Catholic background increased from 8% to 31%.

Last year Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said a third of all applicants come from the Catholic community.

But just one in five actually makes it into training and become constables, he added.

Another user asked the Chief Constable how much extra funding the PSNI would need each year to meet service needs to his level of satisfaction.

In response Mr Byrne wrote: "It's too early to say for me personally as we will be reviewing things like the operating model, the estate and more use of technology."

During the session Mr Byrne also stated he will not be joining his officers at Belfast Pride this year as he has a "prior commitment" which he cannot change, but he "supports the officers who attend".

Mr Byrne also revealed he is working on improving the PSNI's non-emergency 101 service.

One of the more sensitive questions asked related to a social media comment from Mr Byrne's predecessor.

One user asked: "Are you going to support your officers and not tell them to dry their eyes and get on with it like Mr Hamilton?"

In August 2016 the then Chief Constable told one of his officers to "dry your eyes" on Twitter, after the officer posted a message of concern about the increasing pressures of the job.

Mr Hamilton later apologised after the Police Federation called on him to withdraw the "offensive" comments.

Mr Byrne said: "Let's not worry about the past, but care and compassion are important to officer and staff well being."

Another user raised the issue of drugs, asking Mr Byrne if he felt the war on illicit substances could be won and how members of the public can help the PSNI fight it.

Mr Byrne responded: "The war against drugs is about long-term policy and health and societal problems as much as it is a policing issue.

"For now, if you know who is pedalling drugs in your community, give us a call or ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or private message any of our social media pages."

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