Jude Collins

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

PSNI - How are we doin'?

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.


  1. Jude
    I don't disagree with the thrust of your argument..but that's no fun so.
    On your second point I don't think we can start asking people to declare their political allegiance can we? Or are you just assuming that all Catholics (even middle class ones) are Nationalists or Republicans?
    On your fourth point, are you suggesting police officers should be paid the minimum wage to stop them getting above themselves?

  2. giord -- welcome again - Failte isteach

    I think we certainly can ask people political allegiances - that's how Stormont operates - all must declare political allegiance. As to the m/c - election after election shows a pretty good match between Catholics and nationalist/republican vote.
    No, I'm not suggesting they be paid the minimum wage - but I do think they're handsomely paid, otherwise there wouldn't be the numbers applying that there is, and you wouldn't have unionists standing up in Stormont and giving out stink that 50/50 was applied.

  3. At least the PSNI did away with those people who use to refer to its prdecessor as 'OUR police force' i.e. not YOUR police force. So whose police force are they now? ours? CRUC? RRUC?

  4. Why is our nation obsessed not only with religion but gender and race? Does anyone genuinely believe a Catholic Police Officer will serve them better than. Protestant one?

    Let's focus in quality. I want the Police Officer who comes to my house to sort out my issues or at least point me in the right direction. I have little interest in their demographics.

    Perhaps if Police recruiting and promoting was done on an anonymous candidate number, we'd lose this obsession with religion and finally be able to say "the best person got the job."

    I once witnessed a woman talk to a Constable like he was dirt and she quickly threw the line "you're a public servant" at him. The young man was quick enough to say that she was quite right but that he wasn't subservient to the public. Something I think every generation in our nation has forgotten or chose to forget.

    Just my tuppence

  5. Could this be said about the Guards too re class stuff?

  6. fail to pay them well and somebody will bribe them well