HR plays major role in Ulster police overhaul

The first civilian head of HR at the Royal Ulster Constabulary started work
last week and will be central to the controversial reform of the police force
in Northern Ireland.

Joe Stewart joins the RUC as the new senior director of HR in a week when
its officers have been in the media spotlight. It is his job to spearhead the
changes in recruitment, training and work culture in the police force that are
critical to the success of the peace process.

The reform of the RUC, which is viewed by nationalists as a predominantly
Protestant organisation, is a cornerstone of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement,
along with disarmament, demilitarisation, and stability of the political
institutions.

Stewart, the former chief executive of the Police Authority in Northern
Ireland, is launching a comprehensive review of the RUC’s HR function.

He said, "We need to have a close look at where HR is adding value and
ensure that we are providing support in important areas. We are suffering
absenteeism rates of 10 per cent, for example. This is a lost resource and it
isn’t helping operational commanders deliver policing on the ground."

The RUC, which is due to be renamed the Police Service of Northern Ireland,
has initiated a massive recruitment drive for new officers.

A TV advertising campaign generated 10,000 applicants. The HR team will
choose 200 recruits with an equal split between Catholics and Protestants,
which is a requirement of the influential Patten Report. Catholics currently
make up only 8.5 per cent of the force.

Stewart will also develop the RUC’s outplacement procedure with about 2,000
full-time reservist roles being phased out, and the number of regular officers
being lowered to 7,500.

He said, "We could be losing up to 90 officers a month so we need to
ensure we have excellent support and guidance services in place. It is
important not to demotivate those who remain."

By Mike Broad

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