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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 13:10 GMT
Huge response to recruitment drive
Officers on the beat
Plan will act as blueprint for police activities over 12 months
About 20,000 people have asked for application forms for the new Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Royal Ulster Constabulary chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan revealed the figure during a BBC interview on Thursday.

The news came as the Police Authority for Northern Ireland set out its policing priorities for the next 12 months.

The Police Authority is currently tasked with overseeing the workings of the RUC.

Sir Ronnie said he was confident the requirement of 50/50 Catholic/Protestant recruitment could be achieved.

Sir Ronnie Flannagan:
Sir Ronnie Flanagan: "Overwhelming response"

"We are receiving requests for application forms at the rate of something like 700 a day," he said.

"Now I'm not going to count any chickens before they are hatched.

"There's a long way to go but with such an overwhelming response, I am confident we can meet the levels of officers we need and we can meet them on a 50/50 basis."

The Northern Ireland Policing Plan 2001-2002, produced by the authority in conjunction with the RUC, will act as a blueprint for police activities over the next year.

It contains nine objectives and 21 performance targets and deals with major community safety problems including violent crime, public order and organised crime.

The authority said the plan was based on consultation with people across Northern ireland.

Police Authority chairman Pat Armstrong said this consultation was essential.

"This plan is not just our plan or the police's plan but a plan which reflects the concerns expressed to us by people from all communities," he said.

"We are now in the fourth year of producing policing plans and we feel that this has made a real difference in helping to focus the police on the issues which people are most worried about.

Pat Armstrong
Pat Armstrong: Plan reflects the concerns expressed by people

"This year, for example, people consistently told us that racketeering was placing an increasing and unacceptable burden on society.

"So we have set challenging performance indicators and targets in this area to ensure these concerns are addressed."

The plan also focuses on the issue of organisational effectiveness.

Mr Armstrong said: "Naturally we feel that all the objectives and targets in this plan will challenge the police service.

"But it is clear that in the area of organisational effectiveness particularly hard work needs to be done.

"While a large part of this will be up to the police to deliver, we strongly believe that in tackling this immense task they need the backing of adequate resources.

"Unfortunately we do not feel that government is doing all that it could in this area."

Police Board

The Police Authority for Northern Ireland is an independent body which was established in 1970.

The new Police Board will replace the Police Authority for Northern Ireland as part of reforms of the service.

In total, 10 politicians from the Ulster Unionist Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party are eligible to sit on the 19-strong Police Board.

But both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have said they are not yet prepared to accept or reject invitations to the new body.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have argued that the Police (NI) Act does not implement in full the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Policing headed by EU commissioner Chris Patten.

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See also:

08 Sep 99 | Northern Ireland
Sweeping reforms for RUC
14 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
'More Catholics satisfied with RUC'
13 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Row brews over policing nominations
20 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Body urges Police Bill rethink
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