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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
District policing response revealed
The Northern Ireland Policing board
Policing Board plans to establish local bodies next year
Of the almost 1,500 applications for positions on Northern Ireland's new the District Policing Partnerships 22% were from Catholics, the Policing Board has revealed.

The majority of applicants, 69%, were from Protestants.

Chairman of the Policing Board Professor Desmond Rea, said he was "extremely pleased" with the response.

Policing spokesman for the nationalist SDLP and Policing Board member Alex Attwood, said the level of Catholic applications was high enough to ensure the District Policing Partnerships (DPPs) could go ahead.

Professor Rea
Professor Rea said good start had been made in application process

But Democratic Unionist Party Policing Board member Sammy Wilson said some of the independent seats on the DPPs could be left empty because of the "low" Catholic application rates.

While the SDLP has been campaigning for Catholic and nationalist people to get involved in policing because of the changes under the Patten report, Sinn Fein has refused its support, saying the reforms have not gone far enough.

'Local accountability'

Twenty-nine DPPs are scheduled to be operating in council areas across Northern Ireland early next year.

They are to be established under the programme of change to policing in Northern Ireland recommended by Chris Patten, which saw the changeover from the predominantly Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary to the PSNI in November 2001.

Working closely with district commanders to tackle local policing needs, the bodies are to be made up jointly of councillors and independent members.

About 250 independent seats have to be filled in total, with the Policing Board required to ensure the demographics of each council area are reflected in its final appointments.

The Policing Board also disclosed that in the latest recruitment drive for the PSNI itself, out of 4,327 forms returned in the fourth police recruitment campaign, 1,514 (35%) were from Catholics.

'Problems'

Sammy Wilson said the application to the partnerships showed big numbers of Catholics were still rejecting the new service despite intense efforts to woo them.

DUP Policing Board member Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson: "Partnership seats could be left empty"

"How much more has to be given on policing before the Catholic community is prepared to participate?" he asked.

"They should either participate now or else they will have no-one else to blame if we go on without them."

But Mr Attwood said the figures were further endorsement for the PSNI and Policing Board.

He said: "The Catholic community is standing by the new policing order and facing down those who have called policing wrong."

Professor Rea said the campaign was designed to raise awareness of the partnerships and to "encourage people to become involved".

"We believe a sound start has been made," he added.

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Fred Cobain called on Catholics to join in greater numbers.

"I know they have historical difficulties with policing and Sinn Fein refusing to join the board may have intimidated some.

"But if this is going to work, the Catholic community has to join in bigger numbers."

He said he was also concerned only 26% of women had applied to join the new bodies.

"There are specific problems facing women such as providing creche facilities and meeting times which we have to address," he said.

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

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See also:

29 Aug 02 | N Ireland
16 Oct 01 | N Ireland
21 Aug 02 | N Ireland
30 May 02 | N Ireland
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