Forget water cannons to cool off rioters. The PSNI has a new tactic to deal with street disorder.
Ice cream music was played to a crowd of bottle-throwing youths on the outskirts of west Belfast — and it stopped them.
The tunes were blasted through the Tannoy of an armoured ‘polar bear’ Land Rover after the patrol came under attack from about 15 teenagers in the Twinbrook estate last weekend.
The police have said no further action was taken and none of the youths were “scooped”.
And although Constable Whippy’s injection of humour may have worked once, the move is unlikely to be repeated after senior officers took a dim view of the tactic.
“The crew passed a group of around 15 youths who threw bottles at their Land Rover police vehicle,” a PSNI spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph.
“An officer used the vehicle's Tannoy system to play music to the youths in an effort to use humour to defuse the situation.
“The youths stopped throwing the bottles. However police accept that this was not an appropriate action.
“The officer has been spoken to by a senior officer in order to establish the circumstances of the incident.”
He added: “Police in Lisburn are absolutely committed to tackling the issue of on-street drinking and, in response to concerns raised by our partners in the community, regularly take action against public drinking.
“D District have the highest number of alcohol seizures in Northern Ireland, with Lisburn itself leading the way.”
Also among those who did not see the funny side was Sinn Fein councillor Angela Nelson.
“It was a very immature way for police to deal with a very serious problem,” she said.
“We have serious issues with on-street drinking and the anti-social behaviour that results from that on-street drinking.
“There are a lot of older people and pensioners in the Glasvey Drive area.
“I would have expected the PSNI to have a more mature outlook and not to come up and play ice cream tunes.”
Mrs Nelson, who volunteers with the Safer Neighbourhoods Project and has first-hand experience of the impact of anti-social behaviour on the community, dismissed the PSNI’s statement which said the music had defused a tense situation.
“That is a very good excuse when they have been caught out. It’s waffle.
“Where in the world does a police service say that their way of dealing with anti-social behaviour is through humour?
“Every weekend our Safer Neighbourhoods Project is out dealing with situations related with anti-social behaviour.
“Trying to inject humour to defuse it is not suitable.”