The Shire Reeve's Tale: 16

Today, as High Sheriff of Belfast, I represented the City at an Act of Worship marking The Service of The Police Reserve in St Anne’s Cathedral , Belfast. The Service was led by the Dean, Houston McKelvey and was attended by H.M. Lord Lieutenant for Belfast, Dame Mary Peters, The Chief Constable, Matt Baggott and Rt. Hon. Conor Burns MP, representing the Secretary of State. The Cathedral was filled to capacity with relatives and friends of the Police Reserve.

Established on the 1st June 1922, the Royal Ulster Constabulary became the Police Service for the new Northern Ireland, following the partition of Ireland. With a strong nucleus of former RIC Officers it adopted the same uniform, rank structure and organisation of its predecessor.The RUC continued like its predecessor to have the dual role combating normal crime and armed subversion. It was assisted in the latter role by the Ulster Special Constabulary, which acted as a part-time auxiliary police.

As a result of the serious civil disorder during 1968/69, a police enquiry chaired by Lord Hunt radically reformed the RUC to bring it more into line with other UK police forces. The most important changes were the removal of political control over the police by setting up of the Police Authority for Northern Ireland, the transfer of all military-type duties to the army, the disbandment of the Ulster Special Constabulary and its replacement by a newly recruited RUC Reserve.

Created in 1970, the RUC Reserve was originally envisaged as being organised in the same manner as special constabularies in England and Wales, with its own rank structure, however it was decided that, to allow better integration with the regular force, there would be only one rank, that of Reserve Constable. They were uniformed as their regular colleagues but with a letter ‘R’ on their epaulette numerals to indicate their rank as Reserve Constable.

The RUC Police Reserve initially consisted of circa 500 Part-Time Officers in 1970 rising to a peak of approximately 5,000, both Full-Time and Full-Time Officers in the 1980s/1990s. Overall, from its inception in 1970, approximately 13,500 people have served in the Police Reserve.The first member of the RUC Reserve to be murdered was Part-Time Reserve Constable Raymond Frederick Denham, aged 42 who was shot while off duty, at his place of work on 12 January 1972. Part-Time members were particularly vulnerable to such attacks as they were often well known in their local communities as they continued with their Full-Time employment whilst also serving within the RUC Reserve.

Between 1972 and 1997, 102 members of the Police Reserve were murdered by Republicans, a further 21 Officers died whilst in the execution of their duties and 13 former Reserve Officers were murdered by Republicans after they had left the Police Reserve. It is truly fitting that the contribution of the Police Reserve to the people of Northern Ireland has been recognised by Her Majesty the Queen through the awarding of the following Honours to members of the Police Reserve; 1 George Medal, 7 BEMs, 10 MBEs, 2 QPMs, 6 Queen’s Gallantry Medals and 13 Queen’s Commendations.

On 12 April 2000, the RUC was awarded the George Cross for bravery in dealing with terrorist threat to recognise the collective courage and dedication to duty of all of those who have served in the RUC and RUC Reserve and who accepted the danger and stress this had brought to them and their families. On 4 November 2001 the RUC became Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Police Reserve continue to serve the people of Northern Ireland.

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