Policing, A Legacy Issue

Another erroneous recruitment campaign from the PSNI is to be launched this coming Autumn, an “action plan” to tackle the chronic shortage of catholic recruits. The failures of recent recruitment campaigns are well documented. Struggling to attract women, to entice Catholics, to change pre-existing attitudes it must be clear at this point that the cold reception previous attempts received are not going to improve by the introduction of a new angle or targeted area.

In 1999 the Patten Report, which resulted in the name change, altering in size and structure, the recommendations in regards to human rights etc. produced the force that operates today. Despite the 175 recommendations, the support from mainstream political parties and the majority of civic society, the PSNI like its predecessor faces an insurmountable obstacle. This being, that anti-colonialism remains an inherent part of the Irish psyche as much as the PSNI has inherited the illegitimacy of past police forces.

The Irish public; Through family, friends and a shared history and experience of political repression and denial of democracy by the state. This view is supported by a recent report ‘Understanding Barriers Affecting Police Officer Recruitment’ which revealed that the opinion of family and friends was an obstacle to recruitment. In essence, the well founded opinions of distrust, hostility and opposition of the wider community.

The PSNI; Through their continuance of an overly militarised organisation, the RUC (many of its former personnel operate throughout the PSNI despite large redundancy packages) and their legacy of collusion, sectarian nature and engagement in state murder and both organisation’s coercive tactics. In short, support for policing remains a legacy issue, but not in the overly simplistic conceptual understanding, the memory of the recent three decades of war. The legacy is that of occupation and partition.

The prediction of Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris that the ratio between catholic and protestant in the force will reach 50/50 in the next five years will fail to materialise, whether the Deputy Chief Constable’s claim is feigned optimism or is born of  simple naivety makes little difference. In terms of legitimacy of the PSNI, so long as the constitutional arrangement remains unchanged, so to will the residual views that plague the force.