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Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 15:30 GMT

LA law won't work in Belfast

Black anger at the LA police has led to riots

The government has been told that simply increasing Catholic representation in the Royal Ulster Constabulary would not be enough to transform policing in Northern Ireland.

The message was contained in a report drawn up by leading lawyers and civil rights activists warning of the dangers of copying tactics used to try to increase the proportion of women and ethnic minorities in US police forces.

The report has been presented to Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam and the commission looking into the future of policing in the province headed by Chris Patten.

The former Conservative Cabinet minister and Hong Kong governor has been asked to make recommendations on the future of policing in Northern Ireland.

[ image: The RUC has to overcome decades of Catholic mistrust]
The RUC has to overcome decades of Catholic mistrust
Members of the commission recently visited Los Angeles to study changes in policing.

But one of the report's authors, Californian Senator Tom Hayden, said LA should not provide a blueprint for Northern Ireland.

Simply recruiting more officers from previously under-represented or marginalised sections of society in the city - such as African Americans, Latinos and women - in the relevant proportions had not solved the problems, he said.

"It has internalised the problems of the outside world inside the Los Angeles Police Force. A quota system alone has not changed the fundamental nature of policing," he said.

"There is still antagonism between the police and the black community, even though there is a black police chief."

And he said women and minorities had still been left on the "bottom rung" of the career ladder.

A fresh start

[ image: Senator Hayden says the RUC could set a global example]
Senator Hayden says the RUC could set a global example
Mr Hayden said the lessons of LA were that attempting to modify an existing policing system was "very, very difficult".

Northern Ireland had the opportunity under the Good Friday Agreement to start anew. It could be at the forefront of police reform and provide a model for the rest of the world, he said.

Beginning anew did not mean "eliminating every single member of the RUC", he said.

"Many may be up for re-training, up for a new police service. But beginning anew means thinking of the police service as fundamentally new - as the Good Friday Agreement thinks of constitutional arrangements," he said.

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