The DUP has described remarks by the Police Federation chairman that unionist politicians claimed the RUC as “their force” as ill-considered.
Federation chairman Terry Spence warned unionists on Monday not to portray the police as “in the pockets of one section of the community and not the other”, as they had with the RUC.
“Do not try to enlist the police for your own political projects,” Mr Spence told unionists in an interview for the Belfast Telegraph.
On Monday night a Police Federation spokesman denied that Mr Spence’s comments amounted to a warning to modern unionists.
“The chairman's comments concerned the history of the Police Federation and related solely to the RUC and the political context of that time,” he said.
“He did not voice a warning to today's unionists, or any other political party for that matter, that claiming the PSNI as ‘our force’ could damage policing.
“He would have no reason to do so.
“The work of the Policing Board in holding the PSNI to account is supported fully by the federation,” the spokesman stated.
The DUP’s Sammy Wilson said: “I am not aware of any instances where unionist politicians have tried to claim the PSNI as ‘ours’ but such unhelpful and foolish comments will lead to suspicion within nationalist communities.
“Indeed, these ill-considered comments could actually jeopardise confidence in the police.”
The East Antrim MP added: “Mr Spence is right to say that the RUC was branded as belonging to one community, but that was the result of a vicious campaign of demonisation by nationalist/republican politicians.”
Mr Wilson, the Stormont Finance Minister, added: “The PSNI belongs to everyone in Northern Ireland.
“That means that when they do a good job, we will acknowledge that.
“But where things can be improved or mistakes have been made we will hold them to account.”
On Monday the chairman of the Police Federation — the body that represents rank-and-file officers — Terry Spence said that an attitude of ownership by some unionists had helped destroy the RUC and he urged Northern Ireland politicians not to politicise the PSNI.