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Uplift gives PSNI diversity boost

The recruitment drive in Northern Ireland looks set to significantly improve diversity.
Published - 05/07/2021 By - Chris Smith

The Police Service of Northern Ireland could make a major improvement in its religious and gender balance, its Chief Constable has revealed.

In an update to the Policing Board, CC Simon Byrne revealed the recruitment campaign has not only attracted thousands of applications but also received them from across the community.

The force received 2,116 applications from the Catholic community, 30% in total. The number of women in the 2020 merit pool significantly increased by 8.6% from the 2018 campaign (42.4% compared with 33.8%).

And LGBT candidates performed strongly in the assessment stages, with candidates successfully entering the merit pool at the highest ever level recorded (9% merit list from 5.3% in 2018).

His update included a projection of growth in officer and staff numbers to 7,100 and 2,580 respectively by March 2022.

The Uplift recruitment programme has been seen by all forces as a chance to make the ranks better reflect communities. But for PSNI it's been a legal requirement since 2000.

Demand for the force to have enough personnel was first set in the Patten report issued in 1999 and made law a year later.

CC Byrne said the improvement was part of wider work to ensure the force “truly reflects who we are, as a public service provider, and the value that we bring to the communities we serve”.

But the Patten recommendations also included a call for the force to reflect the community make up by religion and other forms of diversity.

At the time of the report, the number of Catholic officers represented 8.3% of the total.

The force launched its student officer recruitment campaign in February 2020 – and included a historic moment when Sinn Fein backed it.

It was supported by an extensive programme of outreach within local communities, and got support from sporting and business leaders.The results were:

  • The number of people demonstrating an interest in a future career in policing increased by 10% from the 2018 campaign, with a total of 6,879 applications
  • An increase in the female applicant pool to 40.3%, representing the highest
  • female proportion across the last five recruitment campaigns (2013)
  • A marginal increase in applications from the ethnic minority community, at 2.3% compared with 2.0% in 2018
  • An increase in the LGBT applicant pool to 7.2%, from 6.1% in 2018

Although the number of Catholic applicants was up on the 2018 campaign, CC Byrne said the force still has a long way to go.

“We recognise that this is an area requiring continued focus in our outreach planning,” he said.

Like other forces, recruits have tended to come from policing families or higher income groups.

CC Byrne set out the next steps – and why it matters: “We will continue to focus on outreach with working class communities, the evidence base identifies that the primary issue facing police recruitment is one of community background rather than socio-economic class background.”

He added: “New officers and staff provide diverse perspective, skills and experience which increases our capability to respond effectively to complex policing challenges and add value in communities, now and in the future.”

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