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Men's Aid to meet police as 'eye candy' PSNI recruitment drive dubbed sexist

By Suzanne Breen

Published 08/09/2016

The image of Bobby Singleton that was posted by Bangor PSNI
The image of Bobby Singleton that was posted by Bangor PSNI
PSNI Superintendent Bobby Singleton
Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, who was the focus of a controversial recruitment drive on social media by the PSNI

A PSNI commander is to hold talks with a men's rights group that accused the force of sexism for describing a male officer as "eye candy" and suggesting that women join the police so they can "run into him".

The area commander for North Down and Ards, Chief Inspector Gerry McGrath, is to meet Men's Aid Northern Ireland later this month to discuss a controversial post on the Bangor PSNI's Facebook page about Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton.

The group lashed out at what it described as the "exploitation" of the detective and suggested that the PSNI may even have been guilty of encouraging sexual harassment.

The chairman of Men's Aid Northern Ireland, Peter Morris, said: "We wrote a letter to the PSNI asking for a meeting and warning that if they didn't agree we would be lodging a complaint with the Police Ombudsman.

"We are delighted that the police have responded and that we are now to meet the area commander. We are not going in to have a shouting match.

"We simply want to point out the negative impact that such Facebook posts can have on young boys growing up.

"Had that been written about a woman, it would have been unacceptable. It is equally wrong that it was written about a man."

Mr Morris added that Men's Aid was also seeking a meeting with the Policing Board to discuss the issue.

Det Supt Singleton became an online sensation last month after his picture appeared on social media, along with safety advice, ahead of the Tennent's Vital music festival. The detective was branded #officerhotstuff by smitten female followers.

Bangor PSNI then posted: "Instead of turning to a life of crime to meet Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, which I have seen several ladies threaten, why not join the PSNI and run into him in a chance meeting in the canteen or during an arrest at custody?"

Men's Aid said that it did not know whether the force was asking people to join the PSNI or POF - the Plenty of Fish dating site. Mr Morris also claimed that focusing on the officer's good looks and masculinity sent out the "wrong message" to young men.

"We want the PSNI to think hard so it doesn't do anything like this again," he said.

"Boys increasingly feel that they have to live up to this impossible masculine standard.

"A report last week showed that eating disorders, dieting, and extreme exercising are increasingly a problem among teenage schoolboys who are in search of the perfect body.

"By placing an emphasis on a male officer's appearance, the PSNI isn't helping".

Mr Morris also voiced concern at a comment made from Chief Constable George Hamilton's Twitter account last month to an anonymous poster who raised concerns about the impact of serving as a police officer.

Mr Hamilton tweeted in response: "Dry your eyes, do the job or move on."

He later apologised for the comment, saying: "I've clearly caused some offence in what I've said, and for that I apologise."

The Chief Constable added: "I'm hugely proud of the officers and staff who go out and serve the public every day."

Mr Morris said: "Promoting the attitude that males should man up and shut up is very dangerous when young male suicide rates are so high. We need boys to speak out more and seek help with their problems."

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