The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is the police service that covers Northern Ireland. It is the successor to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, created on Sunday, November 4 2001, as a result of a Policing Review set up under the Belfast Agreement. This agreement, which helped to end the Irish Republican Army's three-decade-long violent campaign against the Union of Northern Ireland and Great Britain, required the creation of an Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, which became known as the Patten Commission after its chairman, Chris Patten. The political party Sinn Féin, which represents about a quarter of Northern Ireland voters, refuses to endorse the PSNI until Patten's recommendations are implemented in full.
The PSNI has a policy of recruiting 50% of its officers from a Roman Catholic background and 50% from a background other than Roman Catholic. The name and symbols of the organisation, are designed not to alienate either community. The badge features the saltire of St Patrick, and six symbols representing different and shared traditions: a crown, a harp, a shamrock, scales of justice, a torch and a laurel leaf. It is supervised by the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
The senior officer in charge of the PSNI is its Chief Constable. To date this position has been held by three people:
- Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan OBE, from the formation of the PSNI. Flanagan was previously the Chief Constable of the RUC.
- Acting Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn , from April 1 2002. Cramphorn was formerly Flanagan's deputy, and with Flanagan's resignation Cramphorn acted as Chief Constable while the Policing Board sought a permanent replacement. Cramphorn is believed to have applied, unsuccessfully, for the permanent position.
- Chief Constable Hugh Orde OBE, from 29 May 2002. Cramphorn continued as Orde's deputy until September 2002, when he was appointed Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police .