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EDITIONS
Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 17:57 GMT
RUC-PSNI: A serving officer's view
Many of Northern Ireland's rank and file police officers feel that the RUC was made into a political football.

Now, after more than two years of political wrangling the Police Service of Northern Ireland has come into being.

Ordinary police officers are painfully aware that the shape of the service and its new goals were set down in legislation by the government as part of an overall political peace settlement.

Meanwhile, the officers on the ground continue to do a job.

One serving constable told BBC News Online's Jane Bardon the handling of the changes has damaged morale, but will not affect his commitment and professionalism.


The handling of the changes has lowered morale.

I have been in the force 13 years. I have served in west Belfast, east Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland and I have had attempts on my life in a number of incidents.

I would also say what a lot of people are saying, that we have been sold down the river.

"Reminders of RUC are being swept away" constable says

The RUC is being swept under the carpet very quickly as if it has become a bad word. Everything to do with it is being whisked away.

It isn't a gradual process - they want it right now.

It seems to be about appeasement.

The government is trying to get change, but they are being held to ransom by people who say that if you don't change this, we will bomb that.

Manpower pressures

Morale is particularly bad at the moment because of the manpower shortage, as numbers are being reduced.

I don't know anyone who has thrown the head up and said they have had enough and left, and I'm not going to leave.


I want to emphasise that the men and women in the job will continue to give the community the best service they can.

NI police constable

Principles and morals are all very well and good, but you can't pay the bills with them.

But a lot of people being forced to leave have taken the package.

The job has always been difficult, it is now more so.

The public in Northern Ireland have had a very good police service compared to many areas of England, in relation to response times.

Now, with fewer officers on the ground, it is going to have to be a case of re-educating them that we simply can't provide the same service because you can't be everywhere at once.

The men we have are already running from pillar to post. So I hope the public will be patient and understanding.

Professionals doing a job

But I want to emphasise that the men and women in the job will continue to give the community the best service they can.

I personally will continue to be as professional as I can and I believe we will continue to our duty to our utmost best.

I consider it to be like as if we were working making Dunlop tyres and the company was bought over by Michelin.

My job will continue to go on. I will just be being paid by a different company.

Attitudes won't change

I think no matter what changes are made to the force, attitudes towards the force won't change.

Police have come under attack in north Belfast
Police have come under attack in north Belfast

Whether we have a new uniform or name, the police will always be a target because we represent the law.

This is true for all police forces, whether they are here, in London or the West Midlands.

The police in west Belfast will still get bricked and bottled and the police in north Belfast will still be standing on the Ardoyne Road with pipe bombs being thrown at them.

We will always be in the middle keeping the rival factions apart because of the way society is in Northern Ireland.

Broadminded

I also don't believe the change in the service will encourage individuals who wouldn't have joined the police before, to join now.

The security forces will always be under threat, constable says
The security forces will always be under threat, constable says

If you are the kind of person who wants to join the police, you will join whether it is called RUC or PSNI.

Although, I believe the changes are going to allow those who were not allowed to join it, to come in.

The changes will be very difficult for everyone in the force, so I would like to think that the new people coming in now will have a positive attitude towards those already in the job.

I don't think the new recruits will be regarded with suspicion and I don't think there will be any bad attitude against them.

I say that because I am a Roman Catholic myself and I feel as if I have been accepted. I think the force is much more broadminded than it was in the past.

Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

Key stories

Background

OTHER SPECIAL REPORTS
See also:

02 Nov 01 | N Ireland
31 Oct 01 | RUC Reform
21 Sep 01 | N Ireland
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