Northern Ireland news

11 percent of senior PSNI officers are Catholic

Connla Young

Just eight of the PSNI’s most senior police officers are from a Catholic background.

Almost 20 years after the publication of the Patten Report it has emerged that 83 percent of the PSNIs most senior personnel are Protestant.

Figures published by the PSNI last year reveal that of the 68 officers above the rank of superintendent, 57 are Protestant, while eight (11 percent) are from a Catholic background.

Three officers were classified as undetermined.

Policing Board member Dolores Kelly last night voiced concern that Catholics are under-represented at senior levels in the force and called for a return of 50-50 recruitment.

While the PSNI did not reveal the ranks held by senior officers they are thought to include the chief constable and deputy chief constable.

Assistant chief constables, chief superintendents and those holding the rank of superintendent complete the category.

Together they make up the PSNI’s senior leadership team.

While the number of Catholics in the police has risen from 8 percent to more than 30 percent over the last two decades, criticisms remain.

Last week nationalists reacted angrily after it emerged the PSNI had failed to hand over “significant” information to the Police Ombudsman relating to the 1992 loyalist gun attack at Sean Graham's bookmakers on Belfast's Ormeau Road, which claimed five lives.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald caused controversy this week after saying she believed that no-one within the PSNI was capable of taking on the chief constable role after George Hamilton’s retirement later this year.

The figures show that the disparity in religious background continues in other senior PSNI roles.

Of the 77 officers that hold the rank of chief inspector 58 (75 percent) are Protestant while 17 (22 percent) are Catholic.

At inspector level there are 347 officers, with 248 (71 percent) Protestant and 89 (25 percent) Catholic.

The percentage breakdown for those who hold the rank of sergeant are similar with 976 appointed to the role.

Of that number 687 (70 percent) are Protestant while 275 (28 percent) are Catholic.

The statistics begin to narrow at constable level, of which there are 5,033 officers.

Of these 3,258 (64 percent) identify as Protestant while 1,720 (34 percent) are Catholic.

However, when it comes to student officers the gap begins to widen again, with the figures showing a significant drop in the number of Catholic recruits compared to qualified constables.

Of 233 student officers 180 are Protestant (77 percent) and 49 (21 percent) are Catholic.

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly last night said: “50-50 recruitment should not have been ended when it did, it’s very clear that ought to be reinstated.

“So many years on from Patten and the transformation of the PSNI these figures are still a cause for concern in terms of people going through the rank and file and it’s a matter I hope the Policing Board will delve into an investigate more with the PSNI to see if more can be done.”

“I have said it publicly and privately we are not seeing the big role models in those senior ranks.”

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