News, News archive 2011

NICCOSA calls for retention of current 50:50 special recruitment provisions for PSNI

PRESS RELEASE
21 February 2011

NICCOSA calls for retention of current 50:50 special recruitment provisions for PSNI

The Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs (NICCOSA), which is chaired by the Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal Seán Brady, assisted by Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, with a membership of mostly lay Catholics, has called for the unanimous support for the retention of the current ‘50:50’ special recruitment provisions for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.  Mr Owen Patterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, has indicated that he may bring this special recruitment provision to an end next month.  In its submission (see below) to the Secretary of State, NICCOSA:
  • condemns all acts of violence against members of the PSNI calls on people from every religious and political background to actively support those women and men of the PSNI who courageously serve the safety, peace and well being of our society
  • appeals to members of the Catholic community “in particular” to demonstrate their support for the PSNI by encouraging young people from all backgrounds to consider becoming members of the Service.  “Serving one’s society as a police officer,” NICCOSA says, “in a police service that is representative of the community, committed to the human rights of all and dedicated to the peaceful pursuit of the common good is a noble ideal and a laudable Christian vocation which all Catholics are called to support”
  • states that “this is not the time to remove a special measure that has been critical to that transformation and success.  Given that the percentage of Catholic applicants to the PSNI has declined steadily year on year from 44.3% in June 2007 to 37.4% in January 2010, it is difficult to see how recruitment, let alone the level of applications, can become representative of the community without the added support of the special ’50:50′ recruitment measure.”
  • states that the current level of 29.28% Catholic membership of the PSNI is not sufficiently representative of the community composition of the workforce in Northern Ireland
  • challenges the continued under-representation of Catholics in the senior ranks of the PSNI and calls for increased efforts to encourage senior ranking police officers from police services in Britain and the Republic of Ireland to join the PSNI.
Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs response to the Northern Ireland Office Consultation on the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000: Review of Temporary Recruitment Provisions

1.      The Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs is the Northern Ireland sub-committee of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. With a membership of mostly lay Catholics with relevant experience and expertise, NICCOSA provides advice and support to the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland on social, legal and political issues. The Council is chaired by Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, assisted by Most Rev Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor.

2.      In making this submission, the Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs wishes to express its utter condemnation of all violent attacks against members of the PSNI. The Council calls on people from every religious and political background to actively support those women and men of the PSNI who courageously serve the safety, peace and well being of our society. We appeal to members of the Catholic community in particular to demonstrate their support for the PSNI by encouraging young people from all backgrounds to consider becoming members of the PSNI. Serving one’s society as a police officer, in a police service that is representative of the community, committed to the human rights of all and dedicated to the peaceful pursuit of the common good is a noble ideal and a laudable Christian vocation which all Catholics are called to support.

3.      At the most recent meeting of NICCOSA on 20 January 2011, detailed consideration was given to the Northern Ireland Office review of temporary recruitment provisions in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. The Council was unanimous in its support for the retention of the current ‘50:50’ special recruitment provisions for the PSNI.
4.       In coming to this position, the members of the Council noted the following:
a.       The Report of the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland in September 1999 (hereafter ‘The Patten Report’) repeatedly asserted that it is ‘essential that the police service should be representative of the society it polices’ (14.1).
b.      It has become commonplace to assume that The Patten Report identified the ‘target range’ of 29-33% Catholic recruitment as the criteria for determining that membership of the PSNI has become representative of the community. This is a misrepresentation of the facts. The Patten Report specifically referred to this target as ‘the range of “critical mass” estimates that experts have given us (between 15% and 30%), as the level needed to ensure that a minority does not find itself submerged within a majority organizational culture’ (14.10). In other words, the 29-33% target was a threshold for changing the internal culture of the organisation, not a target by which the membership of the PSNI could be deemed to have become objectively representative of the community which it serves. In fact, The Patten Report goes on to say that, irrespective of whether or not the 29-33% target had been reached at the end of the ten year period of special measures, ‘a judgment would need to be made as to whether special measures were still needed to achieve a police service representative of the community or whether this could now be expected to develop naturally’ (14.11). In addition to making it clear that the Patten Commission envisaged the possibility of the special measures continuing beyond the ten year period, this statement provides two criteria by which it should be determined whether or not the special measures should continue: has a police service that is representative of the community been achieved and, if not, could it be expected to ‘develop naturally’ without the support of the existing special recruitment measures?
c.       In respect of the first criterion, both the Secretary of State and the NIO Consultation Paper hold that with current Catholic membership of the PSNI at 29.38% the PSNI is ‘now broadly reflective of the community’ and that, ‘as a result, the Government is minded not to renew the temporary provisions’ (ps.2 & 5). The NI Catholic Council on Social Affairs rejects this assertion and holds that the special measures should remain in place until membership of the PSNI more closely reflects the composition of the Northern Ireland workforce in terms of community background. In this regard the Council notes that the 2009 Labour Force Survey: Religion Report, published by the OFMDFM Equality Research Unit in November 2010, indicates that Catholics now constitute 45% of the working age population in Northern Ireland (n. 2.2, p.6). Critically, the survey also indicates that in the 16-24 age group, a vital group in terms of potential future PSNI recruitment, Catholics now represent 49% of the population of Northern Ireland. This suggests that a target range of 45-49% for Catholic membership is a more accurate, just and equitable figure by which to determine that a representative police service in Northern Ireland has been achieved.
d.      This brings us to the second criterion, the question of whether or not such a representative target could now be reached without the continued support of the special recruitment measures? In this regard the Council draws attention to two critical issues: the statistical evidence that the percentage of Catholic applicants to the PSNI has been steadily decreasing in the past five years and that, in light of growing threat to all members of the PSNI from dissenting paramilitary groups, there is a need to intensify, not diminish the effort to make the PSNI representative of the community. The NI Catholic Council on Social Affairs is strongly of the view that this is not the time for the British Government, through the Secretary of State and the NIO, to send a signal to the wider Catholic/ Nationalist/ Republican community that it regards a figure some 15-19% short of the Catholic proportion of the workforce in Northern Ireland as an acceptable target in terms of equality and community representation, especially in an organisation so central to the future peace, stability and cohesion of society. The transformation of the police service in Northern Ireland and the dramatic increase in cross-community support and participation in policing generally has been one of the most successful and rightly celebrated aspects of the peace process. This is not the time to remove a special measure that has been critical to that transformation and success. Given that the percentage of Catholic applicants to the PSNI has declined steadily year on year from 44.3% in June 2007 to 37.4% in January 2010, it is difficult to see how recruitment, let alone the level of applications, can become representative of the community without the added support of the special 50:50 recruitment measure. The Council notes that the NIO and Secretary of State provide no explanation as to how the remaining 15-19% shortfall in terms of Catholic community representation can be addressed in the absence of the special measure, especially in light of the decreasing trend in Catholic applications and an increasing security threat against members of the PSNI. It is the unequivocal view of the Council that addressing this downward trend in Catholic applications and the gap in community representation cannot be addressed through endorsement, encouragement and support from community leaders alone. This is evidenced in part by the fact that over the same ten year period in which Catholic membership of the PSNI has increased from 8.34% to 29.38%, Catholic membership of support staff for the PSNI, which was not subject to the special recruitment measure, has only increased from 12.85% to 17.97%.
5.      In examining the statistics associated with recruitment and employment in the PSNI the Council expresses grave concern and disappointment at the continued failure to substantially address the issue of community representation within the senior ranks of the PSNI, an issue which is critical to organisational culture as well as cross-community confidence. While welcoming the fact that of the officers appointed to date under the special 50:50 recruitment measure, promotion to the rank of Sergeant has been broadly representative of the community, it is unacceptable that all ranks above this show only a marginal shift towards more representative composition. This highlights the need to intensify the lateral entry mechanisms envisaged by The Patten Report (15:18). The Council calls on the Policing Board, the senior management of the PSNI and political representatives across these islands to seek and facilitate with greater vigour, determination and creativity lateral entry of Catholic recruits into the senior ranks of the PSNI from other police services and from other professions.
6.       In summary, the NI Catholic Council on Social Affairs holds that the current level of 29.28% Catholic membership of the PSNI is not sufficiently representative of the community composition of the workforce in Northern Ireland to justify an end to the special 50:50 recruitment measure for PSNI members. The percentage of applications to PSNI from within the Catholic community has been declining steadily over the past three years. Support for the PSNI from leaders within the Catholic community will not be sufficient to address this decline, particularly in light of increasing murderous attacks on members of the PSNI by dissenting paramilitary groups. The Council therefore appeals to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland not to compound this downward trend but to affirm the right of the Catholic community to an equitable place in the workforce of any organisation by continuing the special recruitment measures in the PSNI until such equity has been achieved. This is not the time to convey the impression that an unrepresentative police service, at all ranks, is politically acceptable when in justice and in terms of shared community support it is manifestly not.
7.      In concluding this submission, the Council draws attention to the critical role of the PSNI itself in winning respect and support for its role in the community. While community leaders have an important role in encouraging support for the PSNI, a police service that is consistently efficient, professional, courteous, fair and accountable in all its actions and especially in its engagement with the public is critical in making membership of the PSNI an attractive option for potential recruits. It will maximise community support for policing in general, and with it the atmosphere in which potential recruits from all sections of the community will feel encouraged and supported in their desire to join. Where members of the PSNI fall short of these standards, or where the primacy of service to the community and respect for the rights and welfare of individuals is lost sight of, support for policing and recruitment will become harder to achieve. Great strides have been made in bringing community support for the PSNI to the unprecedented level it currently enjoys. We believe removing the temporary recruitment measure before equity with the community background of the Northern Ireland workforce has been achieved, will impact on that support and with it potential recruitment from within the Catholic community. This would be a regrettable setback after many years of improvement and success.
ENDS

 

Notes to Editors
The Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs (NICCOSA) is the Northern Ireland sub-committee of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. With a membership of mostly lay Catholics with relevant experience and expertise, NICCOSA provides advice and support to the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland on social, legal and political issues.  The Council is chaired by Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, assisted by Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor.
Further information: 

Martin Long, Director of Communications, Maynooth, 00353 (0) 86 172 7678
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer, Maynooth, 00353 (0) 87 310 4444

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