Page last updated at 17:07 GMT, Friday, 6 November 2009

Q&A Full Time Reserve

Police hats of the RUC era
The reserve was formed in 1970 during the RUC era

WHAT IS THE FULL TIME RESERVE?

The reserve is a auxiliary group of Northern Ireland police officers who support the regular force in mainly security-related policing work.

It was set up in 1970 in response to the growing threat from paramilitaries. At its strongest it had about 3,500 officers, but now has only about 440.

During the Troubles, the full-time reservists often carried out the same jobs, and faced the same dangers, as regular police officers.

Forty-nine of them were killed in the line of duty.

WHY IS IT BEING ABOLISHED?

The 1999 Patten report, which led to major reforms of the police in Northern Ireland, said it should be phased out over a three-year period, providing the security situation did not "deteriorate significantly."

While numbers have been reduced, the reserve has so far been retained as police commanders said they needed it to maintain a good policing service.

However, in June 2009 the last PSNI Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, indicated that he intended to press ahead with a plan to abolish the reserve by March 2011.

In practice that would have meant no full time reserve officers on the streets after the summer of 2010.

WHAT DO THE POLITICAL PARTIES THINK?

Nationalist parties have said the reserve should have been phased out long ago, as the Patten report recommended. In the past Sinn Fein have described the full time reserve as "little more than a unionist militia".

Unionist parties have always disagreed with Patten's conclusions and have campaigned for the retention of the reserve.

WHAT DO POLICE REPRESENTATIVES SAY?

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said a move to phase out the reserve would be premature at a time when the dissident republican threat is at its highest.

They launched a legal challenge to the decision on the grounds that there was inadequate consultation but later dropped the case.



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