Ten years, eh? Doesn't seem that long since they devised that ghastly PSNI badge that has so many symbols on it, you feel like you're on drugs, just looking at it. They had Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie on radio and TV, being blonde and smiling and telling us how much things have changed and how hard it was to scramble from the back of a land-rover when wearing a skirt. Her take on the old RUC? Vaseline-lensed nostalgia, start to finish.
Understandable, I suppose, since over three hundred RUC officers were killed in the Troubles. And certainly she has reason to smile, and not just because she's career-confident enough to turn down a £500,000 retirement lump sum (no, I didn't insert an extra nought back there). The police service she heads up today is a lot different from the one that sat astride the population here in the 1970s and 80s. But there are a number of things which, as I said on the BBC's 'Sunday Sequence', still bother me.
1. Numbers. The proportion of Catholics in the service is now just under one-third. Good. But not good enough. The percentage of Catholics in the population is nearly half.
2. Rank. We're told the increased number of Catholics in the service but we're not told what rank they occupy. Why not? Is there a mechanism in place to show the proportion of Catholics/nationalists/republicans holding senior positions? Not much point recruiting more Catholics/nationalists/republicans if they stay at the hewers-of-wood/drawers-of-water level.
3. Class. Of the Catholics recruited, what proportion come from,say, the Bogside? Crossmaglen? The Falls Road? A police service that's filled with middle-class Catholics makes little sense - the conflict didn't centre on the leafy suburbs. Is anyone monitoring class intake? And if they are, will they tell us? Because they should.
4. Class exile. When a young working-class man or woman joins the police, they quickly become middle-class. Why wouldn't they, with that salary? While this, policing-wise, is better than being middle-class born and bred, it still creates a gap between that person and the community from which they come. We're back to the problem of the police officer as alien or semi-alien in the community s/he polices.
5. Servant. Brendan Behan once said there is no situation so bad that the arrival of a policeman does not make it worse. An exaggeration but contains a truth. How can police officers be made to see that they are the servants of the community and not its supervisors?
What all this comes down to is the way the police are seen by the community which they are supposed to serve. It's a problem in most western countries but that's little comfort. Those in the least-well-off areas see themselves as being at the bottom of the heap and the police as part of what maintains the status quo - i.e., keeps them there.
How to solve all these difficulties? I haven' t a clue. But I know that patting ourselves on the back for how far we've come while keeping our heads in the sand about the difficulties remaining is to ask for trouble. Or Troubles.