Seventy-nine per cent of PSNI C3 Intelligence Branch remains Protestant, according to new figures from the force.
The data, accurate to July, show little inroads have been made in balancing the religious make-up of the division nearly two decades after Chris Patten recommended wide-ranging reforms that led to the discontinuance of the RUC.
Details obtained by the ‘Journal’ show that of 449 officers employed in C3 - which today carries out functions formerly performed by the old RUC ‘special branch’ - 353 described themselves as Protestant (79 per cent).
This is a huge overrepresentation in the North where according to the last census just 48.4 per cent of people said they were Protestant.
Efforts to equalise the religious composition of the intelligence service have clearly been far less successful than within the PSNI as a whole.
In December 1998, for example, 88.1 per cent of all RUC members were Protestant but last month that figure had reduced to just 66.6 per cent of police officers.
The PSNI who revealed they spent £38.5m on C3 Intelligence Branch last year said the force is fully committed to realising Patten’s demand that historical community background imbalances in policing here be fully addressed.
However, it appears that progress within C3 - whose work includes gathering intelligence through officers working under cover and by liasing with Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) or informers as they are commonly known - has been slow.
The force points to wins such as the fact that since 2000 it has completely phased out the old Full Time Reserve (FTR) and that this has helped bring some equilibrium to the Protestant/Catholic balance in the PSNI as a whole.
But the special skills needed to work at C3 have made the transition more difficult and perhaps explains why 58 per cent (262) of officers currently employed there were also members of the RUC before it was replaced by the PSNI in 2001.
“Whilst such rapid change has taken place, it is widely acknowledged it will take time to evidence the out-workings of the Patten recommendations,” the PSNI said.
“New officers to PSNI require time to acquire new skills, gain experience and moreover, be promoted to specialist and other roles. PSNI continues to recruit police officers and police staff to maintain and build upon the previous successes of engaging with communities and attracting candidates from across all backgrounds,” it added.
C3 Intelligence Branch operates within the PSNI Crime Operations Department and provides the intelligence that “underpins many investigations that the PSNI conduct”.
According to the PSNI: “Intelligence has formed part of many police operations against child sexual exploitation, cyber enabled crime, human trafficking, drugs, robbery, paramilitary activity and threats to public safety. We assist our colleagues across the PSNI with specialist knowledge and advice, enabling a professional and efficient response to all types of criminal activity.”