PSNI recruitment: Almost 7,000 apply to join police service
Almost 7,000 people have applied to join the Police Service of Northern Ireland in its latest recruitment drive.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said he was "pleased" the new campaign had attracted 6,961 applications.
About one third of those who want to join are from the Catholic community - 2,158 - 223 more than the last recruitment drive in 2018.
The force is aiming to bring in as many as 600 new trainees over the next year.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is under pressure to increase Catholic representation, with senior officers warning it could begin to slip backwards.
Sinn Féin and the SDLP have both called for the reintroduction of a 50-50 recruitment policy, which ran for a decade until 2011.
It meant 50% of all recruits had to be from a Catholic background.
Those from a Protestant background currently comprise 67% of the PSNI's 6,900 officers.
In the latest recruitment drive, applications from women have risen by 3% on 2018 to 2,808.
Almost 60% of applications were from men and just over 40% were from women.
The PSNI said the number of applications received was up by more than 700 from 2018.
The organisation is trying to tackle under-representation in its ranks, by attracting more Catholics, working-class Protestants, women, ethnic minorities and members of LGBT community.
Reacting to the latest application figures, Sinn Féin's policing spokesman Gerry Kelly tweeted: "31% of applicants are from a Catholic background and 41% are women.
"An accountable police service needs to be representative of the whole community it serves and representative in all grades and ranks also.
"The decision to abandon 50/50 recruitment was both political and wrong."
The latest PSNI recruitment drive was the first one to be publicly supported by Sinn Féin.
The party first gave its support to the PSNI in 2007 but its representatives have never attended passing out parades for new recruits.
The job candidates now face a "rigorous" selection process to secure a place on the PSNI's training programme.
There are eight different stages, starting with an online application, followed by an initial selection test.
Applicants are invited to visit the assessment centre where exercises include written tasks, role plays and computer skills.
Applicants will then be invited to a fitness test involving running, crawling, climbing and balancing.
They must complete 16 hours of online learning within a four-week period.
They then face a series of medical tests.
They are also vetted and must complete a series of questionnaires as part of that process.
If they make it through the assessments, they then get a place at the Police College in the autumn where they will undergo a 23-week training course.
This story was amended on 27 February 2020 to clarify the stages of the recruitment process. Further details can be found on the PSNI recruitment website.