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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 February, 2004, 10:08 GMT
Police college decision imminent
Three sites have emerged as the main contenders for the location of a new policing training college in Northern Ireland.

Cookstown in County Tyrone and the County Antrim areas of Crumlin and Nutts Corner, have all been shortlisted, and the Policing Board is to make a final decision on Thursday.

Some sources have suggested that a site beside the food science centre in Cookstown could emerge as the preferred location for the academy which is expected to open in 2007.

As well as training hundreds of fledgling Police Service of Northern Ireland officers, siting the college would also provide a massive economic boost for the area.

DUP assembly member for Mid-Ulster, Reverend William McCrea, has been campaigning for Cookstown to host the police training college.

A member of the local District Policing Partnership, Mr McCrea said the area lent itself to a prestigious police academy "that the world is going to come to see."

"We are going to offer a prestigious development, it is going to bring investment to our area, there's a lot of other jobs... that can come with it," he said.

"It's going to be a boost to the community, because it's giving a clear signal to the people of Northern Ireland .... that there's no no-go areas for policing."

He said he had no concerns about the safety of such an academy.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness: "It's about getting policing right"
However, Mid Ulster MP, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said there were already many questions surrounding the policing issue being asked within the republican/nationalist community.

"It's not about buildings, it's not about institutions, it's about getting policing right and we haven't got policing right," he said.

"I am continuing to negotiate to bring about that new policing services, because there's nothing I would love more than to bring about a situation where we see everybody within our society in a position to sign up to new policing arrangements which were promised under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The big difficulty that we face at the moment is that we don't have that sort of policing service."

The Patten Commission recommended that a new state of the art academy should be built to replace the present college at Garnerville in east Belfast.

Its facilities have been strongly criticised by the former Police Oversight Commissioner Tom Constantine.

Sweeping reforms

The proposal still has to be endorsed when the Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton, puts it to a full meeting of the Policing Board in Belfast.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde has already made it clear he wants the college to be one of the finest in the world as part of his vision to turn his force into a role model for others.

The changes to policing in Northern Ireland came as part of sweeping reforms to the service under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace accord.

New PSNI trainees are recruited on a 50:50 Catholic-Protestant basis and recruitment will continue under this quota system.

BBC NI's Brian Rowan:
"It is expected that the new academy will be opened in July 2007"

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