David Ford rules out return of 50/50 PSNI recruitment
Justice Minister David Ford has ruled out reintroduction of the 50/50 recruitment policy to address the lack of Catholic police officers within the PSNI.
Mr Ford said he did not believe the controversial policy was the way to ensure nationalists were better represented within the predominantly Protestant organisation.
Serious concern has been raised over the low level of Catholics joining the force. Out of 401 new recruits since 2013, just 77 are Catholic.
The worrying statistics, revealed by the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week, have led to warnings that drastic action, such as the reintroduction of 50/50, may have to be considered for the PSNI to become more representative.
However, Mr Ford said that while he was "keen that the PSNI should continue the great strides it has taken to create a police service that is representative of the wider community it serves", he did not "believe discrimination through the reintroduction of a 50/50 policy is the way to do it".
The third phase of a recruitment campaign closed on Friday and attracted more than 4,000 applicants. It is estimated that around 30% were from the Catholic community.
"When launching this recruitment campaign senior PSNI officers were keen to encourage recruits from all sections of the community and all areas across Northern Ireland in order to get a workforce that represents the entire community," Mr Ford said.
The 50/50 recruitment rule operated from 2001 to 2011. It was introduced as part of Patten and meant that half of all officers had to be Catholic.
It was brought to an end in 2011 when the number of officers from a Catholic background rose from 8% to around 30%.
However, the first recruitment campaign to be launched since the end of Patten has seen very few Catholics joining the ranks.
SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said this was something she was very concerned about: "Unless this is addressed the PSNI will become even less representative of the nationalist/republican community, which is very worrying."
Last week a policing expert warned there were signs that the composition of the PSNI was "taking a step backwards".
"The PSNI has become a tangible beacon of change; an institution that people can point to as evidence that the conflict is over. It is imperative that its legitimacy is not brought into doubt or trust in it is broken because the public no longer maintains that it is representative," said criminologist Dr Jonny Byrne.