PSNI claim gay officers under-representated despite figures showing otherwise

Uniformed PSNI officers at the gay pride march in Belfast in 2017
Uniformed PSNI officers at the gay pride march in Belfast in 2017
Share this article

PSNI claims that gay and bisexual people are under-represented on the force appear at odds with official figures.

In addition, a disproportionate number of a recently-hired tranche of police recruits were gay or bisexual.

These are among the facts to emerge after the News Letter looked into the PSNI’s decision to specifically reach out to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as part of a recent jobs drive.

In October 2017, the PSNI announced it wanted to hire about 300 new officers, and as part of this, there were reportedly three hiring events which took place in Belfast and Newry specifically targeting prospective LGBT recruits.

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said at the time it was part of “our ongoing engagement towards under-represented groups within our organisation... the PSNI is committed to ensuring our workforce is representative of the community we serve”.

TUV leader Jim Allister meanwhile had dismissed this as “unwarranted pandering”.

The News Letter has asked questions about the current make-up of the force in terms of sexual orientation, and about the recruitment campaign itself.

The PSNI were supposed to answer within about a month, but it took them about three months to respond.

When they did, they revealed that as of October 2018, 1.96% of the PSNI’s roughly 6,700-strong force were gay or bisexual. The PSNI does not monitor whether officers are transgender.

The government’s Office for National Statistics found 2% of the UK population said they were gay or bisexual (1.2% gay, 0.8% bisexual) in its most recent research, covering 2016.

The figures varied from area to area, with the Northern Ireland figure being 1.7% (the lowest) and London being 2.7% (the highest).

They also fluctuate depending on age, with younger people far more likely to say they are gay or bisexual (the Office for National Statistics said 4.1% of UK 16 to 24-year-olds identified themselves as such).

The PSNI also revealed that of the 300 officers sought as part of its October 2017 recruitment campaign, 82 had been appointed by October 2018.

Of these 82 new officers, seven (8.5%) were gay or bisexual.

The police were asked what led to it running a campaign to target LGBT people when their representation on the force already appears to mirror that in the general population, and why it believes so many new recruits were gay or bisexual.

Despite a slew of headlines at the time of the recruitment drive – including ‘PSNI to hold recruitment events for LGBT community’ (BBC) and ‘Northern Ireland police launch recruitment drive for gay officers’ (PinkNews) – temporary Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin told the News Letter: “We didn’t run a specific campaign in regards to the recruitment of LGBT officers.

“However the PSNI is committed to ensuring that the service is as representative as possible and will therefore proactively engage with under-represented groups, including LGBT groups.

“Whilst 8.54% of those currently appointed identify as being gay/lesbian or bisexual, this percentage will change as further appointments are made.”

The Rainbow Project, arguably the foremost LGBT pressure group in Northern Ireland, was asked to comment on the figures in this article, but did not.