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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 06:37 GMT 07:37 UK
All change for NI police
Officers wore the uniform on patrol on Friday
Officers wore the uniform on patrol on Friday
New uniforms are being worn on duty by officers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, as the first batch of new recruits are due to graduate.

The first group of 44 recruits trained specifically for the PSNI will be graduating in a special ceremony in Belfast taking place later on Friday.

The uniforms, seen on the streets for the first time at midnight on Thursday, appear alongside the new crest and service flag introduced as part of wholesale changes to policing in the province.

The programme of sweeping changes to policing in Northern Ireland was begun following a report from Chris Patten's policing commission, which made more than 175 recommendations.

The uniform carries the service's new badge
The uniform carries the service's new badge
The commission was set up under the Good Friday Agreement.

Acting chief constable Colin Cramphorn is to be the reviewing officer, but predecessor Sir Ronnie Flanagan will also be present in his new role as an inspector of constabulary.

Following the changeover from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the PSNI last November, the new uniform was developed after one of the most extensive programmes of research and consultation ever undertaken.

For the first time police officers working in most areas of the province are to wear name badges, despite opposition to the move from the Police Federation.

The federation, which represents serving officers including members of the PSNI's full and part time reserve forces, said the time was not right for the move.

The uniform carries the service's new badge, which was unanimously agreed by the Policing Board in December last year.

This is a chance for a new beginning and it is a chance for the public to get behind the police

Sir Ronnie Flanagan

The emblem features a Saint Patrick's Cross surrounded by six symbols - a harp, crown, shamrock, laurel leaf, torch and scales of justice.

Five uniforms have been developed for different operational duties.

The recladding of the whole service is costing 4.5m.

'New beginning'

The former chief constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, said he thought the policing changes had gone "remarkably well".

"I joined in a period of great change. I joined in days which followed a perhaps more radical report that the Patten Report - so nothing is absolutely new under the sun," he said.

"But this is a chance for a new beginning and it is a chance for the public to get behind the police - the public from all traditions, all backgrounds, all cultures."

They are graduating with broad cross-community support

PSNI spokesman

Policing legislation in the province states that police emblems and stations are to be politically and religiously neutral.

Sinn Fein is the only major political party which refused to endorse the PSNI by taking its places on the Policing Board, and had no input into the decisions on the new badge and uniform.

The first group of 44 PSNI graduates - selected on a 50% Catholic, 50% Protestant and others basis - started their training on 4 November last year.

Colin Cramphorn
Colin Cramphorn: Reviewing officer

With representatives of the four main churches attending, a Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman stressed the 44 fledgling officers have received vital backing.

A PSNI spokesman stressed: "They are graduating with broad cross-community support."

Alongside Mr Cramphorn, the chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Desmond Rea, the head of police training, Superintendent Roy Fleming, and Gerry McKenna, vice chancellor of the University of Ulster, will also address the newly qualified officers.

The head of the Irish police, Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne, has also been invited to the ceremony.

Unionists had threatened to boycott the graduation ceremony if Mr Byrne was given a formal role in the ceremony.

The BBC's Denis Murray
"The changesare here to stay even if the problems remain ages old"
BBC NI's Brian Rowan:
"There wil be 44 students who graduate today"
Professor Desmond Rea, Chairman NI Policing Board
"Policing is an important issue"
See also:

27 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Name badges part of new uniforms
27 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Row over NI police graduation
12 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Police recruitment 'will be 50:50'
12 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Board agrees on NI police badge
04 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
'New era' as NI police change name
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