There must be no return to the 50:50 recruitment process as the chief constable seeks to increase overall PSNI numbers, the DUP has said.
Responding to comments made by Chief Constable Simon Byrne – that he would like to see the current workforce boosted by 800 new officers – Mervyn Storey said potential Catholic recruits needed more support from nationalist politicians.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Byrne said he would like to see a government commitment to recruit more officers, similar to one given by the prime minister to increase police numbers in England and Wales.
“I want to see that replicated here so we can get back to the levels Patten envisaged of 7,500 officers,” he said.
Mr Byrne also hit out at the political stalemate at Stormont, describing it as “unhelpful,” but said the PSNI was “not yet back at the point” where 50:50 was necessary.
Policing Board member Mr Storey said he wanted to see “more officers on the street from every background,” but described the Patten-recommended 50:50 scheme as “flawed and sectarian”.
The DUP MLA said: “In June 2018, the former chief constable told the NI Affairs Committee there was a ‘real need for wider nationalism to take yet another step in terms of policing” and it required ‘politicians, civic leaders and church leaders to advocate for a career in policing’.
“Despite these stark messages from senior officers, there was no notable change following this. A recruitment fair in a nationalist area had to be cancelled, passing out parades were ignored by the republican leadership and outrageous religious generalisations were made about the PSNI senior team.”
In his BBC interview, Mr Byrne also said the PSNI has become the “shock absorber for failure elsewhere” because of the ongoing political vacuum in Northern Ireland, and that we are in a “really dangerous situation”.
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said he welcomed the call for increased police numbers, and said a lack of a functioning Executive meant “the time is fast approaching when we need to return policing and justice functions to Westminster”.
Mr Beattie said has raised the issue of PSNI numbers with the Department of Justice, PSNI and the previous chief constable on numerous occasions.
“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,” Mr Beattie added.
Meanwhile, the Police Federation (PFNI) has backed the chief constable’s call for more PSNI officers beyond the current strength of 6,700.
Responding to Simon Byrne’s claim yesterday – that the failure of local politics is creating an increasingly dangerous situation – the PFNI tweeted: “Comments made by @ChiefConPSNI today on the need for 800-1000 more @PoliceServiceNI officers and by the @DepChiefConPSNI on Monday around restoration of the Executive show that we are all on the same page. Serious damage being caused to policing by political stalemate. #weareyou”