50/50 recruitment should be ‘last resort’

PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne
PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne
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Northern Ireland’s police chief has ruled out reintroduction of 50/50 recruitment in the immediate future.

The scheme was devised by reformer Chris Patten 20 years ago to attract more Catholics into a force then dominated by Protestants.

It has been discontinued.

Senior PSNI commanders have expressed concern that not enough Catholics have joined following recent merit-based recruitment competitions.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “Not knowing where we might go in the next couple of years I think it would be premature to rule something out that was at the heart of Patten 20 years ago, but I don’t think we are anywhere near that at the moment.

“To me it is almost like an intervention of last resort, if I can describe it as that, but it would have to be done with consent from all communities.”

Ulster Unionist policing spokeperson Alan Chambers welcomed the chief constable’s assessment that 50/50 recruitment should not be reintroduced at this time.

He added: “There is indeed an issue with regard to the recruitment of Catholic officers, but that is more to do the ongoing intimidation of recruits and officers who come from areas where violent republicans are still determined to place of bombs by terrorists under officer’s cars, or outside family homes.

“50/50 recruitment will do nothing to stop Catholic recruits fearing for the safety of close relatives.”