Sinn Fein has declined to say if it has ever sent a representative to a PSNI graduation ceremony in 17 years, after the Chief Constable renewed his call on nationalist leaders to back careers in policing for young Catholics.
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has once again asserted that Catholics must be encouraged to seek a career in policing, noting that the current 32% of Catholic officers is likely to fall “if nothing changes”.
“We need civic leadership, especially within the Catholic/nationalist community – political leadership in particular – to get in behind advocating for a career in policing,” Mr Hamilton told the BBC.
“That is where the big gap is, that’s where the big void is – we need people to be encouraged to take on the honourable profession of policing and needs to come from the leadership of the Catholic/nationalist community.”
It is widely accepted that recruits often have to move out of Catholic areas due to dissident republicans.
On Friday DUP Policing Board leader Mervyn Storey said that nationalist representatives “must finally step up to the challenge” issued by the Chief Constable.
He said a “knee-jerk response” from the SDLP in calling for the reintroduction of 50:50 Catholic–Protestant recruitment was an attempt to “outsource responsibility,” adding that Sinn Fein had similarly “failed to demonstrate real leadership”.
Friday saw the latest PSNI passing out parade, he said, adding that he was not aware that Sinn Fein had ever attended one. The party had branded the very first such event 17 years ago as “a non-event”.
“Has Sinn Fein ever attended a PSNI passing out parade since the very first one in 2002?” Mr Storey asked.
Sinn Fein was invited several times to respond, but instead it supplied a statement in which policing spokesman Gerry Kelly accused the Chief Constable of “attempting to deflect from failings within policing by suggesting that the lack of young nationalist recruits is the responsibility of political parties”.
Mr Kelly claimed that the PSNI has failed to disclose information in legacy cases, and arrested journalists investigating collusion.
Less than 20% of senior officers are nationalists and only one-in-five nationalists are successful in the recruitment process, he said.
Meanwhile, SDLP policing spokeswoman Dolores Kelly said her party “encourages any young person from a nationalist community who is thinking about a career in policing to pursue it”.