By Sean Ryan - 15 March, 2015
“Unless further initiatives are taken regarding the composition of the police service we could be witnessing a reversal of Patten.”
If the trend continues it could result in a reversal of the Patten reforms which were introduced after the Good Friday Agreement and sought to increase the number of Catholics within the force.
Under the Patten reforms, a 50/50 recruitment policy was put in place meaning 50% of all new applicants recruited would be Catholic and the other 50% would be Protestant.
The name of the police service was also changed from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to the PSNI.
The RUC was at one point 92% Protestant and 8% Catholic.
A ‘Workforce Plan’ produced by the PSNI’s human resources department, shows that 67% of officers are Protestant and just over 30% are Catholic from a wider population that is 48% Protestant and 45% Catholic.
The plan states that “given that the PSNI is currently losing more officers than it is appointing” and with a historical baseline of a predominantly male Protestant officer workforce, the effects of the current intake on representativeness within the workforce is unlikely to become fully apparent “until more female and Roman Catholic officers attain 30 years’ service.”
The report says the PSNI will “need to continue to undertake additional measures if it is to achieve its aim of being fully reflective of wider NI society.”
This may include the requirement to consider the reintroduction of a specific gender action plan or taking affirmative action to increase Roman Catholic representation.
Commenting on the statistics to the Irish News, Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee for the Administration of Justice said, “The honest warning from the PSNI is that unless further initiatives are taken regarding the composition of the police service we could be witnessing a reversal of Patten.”
He continued, “Nothing should be off the table for discussion, including consideration of further temporary measures if required to ensure the objective of equality of representation on grounds such as gender and community background is progressed.”
SDLP Policing Board member and Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly said the drop off in Catholics in the PSNI was worrying.
“It is a matter of great concern after all the work done to encourage young Catholics to join the police,” she said.
“We want exit interviews. We want to know why everyone is leaving, what their reasons are.”
Unionist Policing Board member and West Tyrone MLA Ross Hussey has suggested that the flight of Catholics from the PSNI is due to the threat of “republican violence”.
“As was the case with the RUC, any disincentive for Catholics to join the PSNI is due in large part to the ongoing campaign of republican violence and in particular the active targeting of police officers from a Catholic community background,” he said.
“We believe that the best person for the job should be appointed to a job, regardless of colour, class, creed or gender.”