Editorial - Remaining barriers must be removed

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Police chiefs regularly talk about the importance of community policing and forging stronger links with people living in the areas they are employed to serve.

The picture they paint of the neighbourhood police officer on the beat, a familiar and well-known figure in the community is a great idea and one that will hopefully be realised in the future. However at present it is far from reality for the majority of communities in Derry.

While policing has undergone huge changes over the last decade and real improvements have been made, we are still not at the stage where the police service can be regarded as representative of the entire community in the North.

Now the PSNI have acknowledged this. They have embarked on a major recruitment drive and have said they are particularly interested in hearing from what they describe as “under represented groups.”

They further explain that this polite euphemism really means young, unemployed, Catholic men and women from socially deprived areas in Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh.

Acknowledging this imbalance is one thing; being able to address it is quite another.

The legacy of the bad policing of the past, coupled with the real and ongoing threat from militants on both sides, present barriers to a career in policing for many young people.

However, external factors alone cannot be blamed for the lack of young nationalists from working-class backgrounds in the police. The PSNI must look at their own actions, particularly their handling of parades and protests, to help explain that.