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