A NORTH police force welcomed its first Sikh recruit yesterday as part of its largest intake of officers to date.

Jagjeet Bura was among the 51 new North Yorkshire probationary constables sworn in at the Attestation Ceremony in County Hall, Northallerton. They took their oath before magistrate Gordon Charlton.

The force's largest-ever intake will swell the number of officers serving the county to a total of 1,441 and at the end of the month a further 18 will join.

Mr Bura, originally from Bradford, will be stationed in Skipton during parts of his two-year training course.

"I feel proud to be the first Sikh to join the North Yorkshire Police. I hope others will see me walking down the street in my uniform and be encouraged to do the same," he said.

The young men and women have already embarked on an intensive two-year course, which will see them training at centres in Durham, Ponteland or Warrington for 15 weeks. They will later have their first period on the streets, when they go to areas to work alongside their tutor constables.

Superintendent Paul Ackerley, head of staff development for the North Yorkshire force, said: "The teaching will be done in the classroom and out on the streets.

"They need to learn about the diversity of their community, meet local residents and build up a relationship with important people."

Chief Constable Della Cannings called the officers the "lifeblood" of the service.

"People tell us they want to see more police officers patrolling the streets. I have made that one of my main commitments," she said.

After the ceremony, Caroline Upfield, one of the new officers, said it had been an overwhelming experience.

"I have always wanted to do this and to be standing here now in my uniform makes me feel very proud," she said.