RUC `should be cut by 5,000 officers'

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THE PATTEN report will recommend this morning that the Royal Ulster Constabulary be renamed the Northern Ireland Police Service, and will make scores of proposals designed to change the face of policing for the new millennium.

Billed as a new beginning, the blueprint, published by a commission headed by the former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, will contain 175 recommendations, many of which have already sparked off intense political debate.

Unionists and many police officers will oppose the name-change while republicans will complain that their demands for disbandment have been rejected. Many Protestants will regard the proposals as an insult to a force that lost 300 officers in the Troubles while some nationalists will consider the plans do not go far enough.

The commission, which was set up a year ago under the Good Friday Agreement, recommends reducing the size of the RUC from 13,000 to about 8,000. It also calls for special new measures to increase Catholic representation in a force which is 92 per cent Protestant.

The Rev Ian Paisley denounced the report as "the death knell of the RUC", saying that Protestants were to be discriminated against and "ethnically cleansed" from the force.

In a calmer response, the RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, who was given the report at a meeting with Mr Patten yesterday, said it would be judged in a cool, professional manner. Some officers have made clear, however, that they regard the proposed name-change as hurtful.

Among the report's recommendations are a new Police Board to replace the existing Police Authority, a new police training college, and internal reorganisation that could include the amalgamation of Special Branch and the CID .

An international commissioner would to be asked to supervise the implementation of the plan while politicians, churchmen and business leaders on both the Catholic and Protestant sides would be urged to support the new arrangements.