Page last updated at 19:09 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Ex-detectives being re-employed

Police custody image - pic courtesy PSNI
Police are employing agency staff - mostly former officers

By Vincent Kearney
Home affairs correspondent

Northern Ireland police are so short of experienced detectives that dozens of officers who took lucrative redundancy packages are being re-employed.

A confidential paper, seen by the BBC, revealed almost 250 detectives were expected to retire within two years.

Police cannot find enough suitable recruits to replace them.

The PSNI currently employs 79 staff from a recruitment agency - most former officers who left with generous packages under the Patten reforms.

Ten years ago the Patten Commission recommended sweeping changes to the RUC - which was replaced by the PSNI.

Watch Vincent Kearney's report

They included a generous redundancy package to encourage long-serving officers to resign to make room for new recruits - 50% of them Catholics.

As a result, hundreds of experienced detectives have left the police.

A confidential paper presented to Northern Ireland's Policing Board said there were 1,174 PSNI detectives, but senior officers have said that is 112 fewer than they needed.

The situation is so bad that the police currently employ 79 staff provided by a recruitment agency - most of them former police officers who retired with generous redundancy packages.

The situation is likely to get worse with 244 experienced officers eligible to leave under Patten by the end of March 2011 - and most are expected to go.

The Policing Board has given the police permission to fast track the training and recruitment of intelligence officers to work as detectives - but they know that alone will not fill the recruitment gap.

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