The Andersonstown News can – for the first time – confirm that none of the PSNI’s current detectives in Special Branch and CID have been recruited into the force under the Patten reforms.

Special Branch and CID are overwhelmingly composed of former RUC members, along with a small number of individual detectives who have been seconded or transferred from other forces. Controversy over the make-up of Special Branch and CID has been building to crisis point, particularly with recent revelations over alleged PSNI malpractice that have led to substantial charges being withdrawn, and in some instances accused persons being acquitted, in relation to ‘politically sensitive’ cases.

Senior republicans have repeatedly complained in recent months that “a cartel of RUC political detectives” dominates the structures of PSNI Special Branch, REMIT and Regional Crime. To date, the PSNI has failed to make any official comment over the issue.

The Andersonstown News can, however, now reveal that during an event in New York, Chief Constable Hugh Orde made a series of specific comments that appear to bolster Sinn Féin’s position.

Mr Orde made his remarks during an address before the National Committee on American Foreign Policy on Monday, March 29.

entred on his allegation that the judiciary in the North has been too lenient in dealing with paramilitaries. Intriguingly, Mr Orde’s highly significant comments about the membership of Special Branch and CID went completely unreported.

“But I now have twelve hundred officers who have only worked for the Police Service of Northern Ireland,” said Mr Orde. “Now again, that may not seem a lot, I have nine thousand officers in total, if you include full-time reserve.

However, the facts are clear, all these officers are on front line policing.
They’ve only got two years service, they cannot have gone anywhere else, they cannot go on to Special Branch yet, they’re too young, they cannot go to CID. So of my four thousand six hundred officers in Districts, over a thousand have never been in any other police service,” said the Chief Constable.

This official confirmation that all PSNI recruits have all been placed on frontline posts in local District Command Units (DCUs), while former RUC veterans dominate detective duties – including ‘politically sensitive’ cases led by Special Branch/REMIT – is set to be the focus of considerable concern for republicans.

The PSNI’s ongoing lack of progress on implementing significant changes to Special Branch was this week once again highlighted as a significant concern in the tenth report of the Police Oversight Commissioner, Al Hutchinson.

He said that, “unfortunately the record of accomplished change in Special Branch has not been stellar”.

This follows on from remarks in the Oversight Commissioner’s ninth report expressing concern that changes to Special Branch were not happening in a “timely manner”.

Meanwhile, the Andersonstown News has also discovered that – despite their ‘normalised’ modern appearance – new stations being built by the PSNI are designed to facilitate the rapid reintroduction of old-style RUC fortifications. Although the latest PSNI stations are being made to resemble ordinary buildings, they are being designed to allow for so-called ‘hardening’.

Significantly, according to a reliable industry source, new stations are being provided with widened foundations in order to permit another defensive ‘skin’ to be erected outside at a later date.The roofs of stations are also being built to enable modifying defensive upgrades, again at a later date. It is not yet known whether the PSNI’s strategy of ‘retaining its capacity’ for heavy fortifications, whilst ostensibly complying with demilitarisation requirements, will feature in the next Independent Monitoring Commission report.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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