PSNI chief under fire 'get another job' tweet
Hamilton's 'dry your eyes' comment on Twitter sparks a backlash from police union
Chief Constable George Hamilton has been accused of "stunning misjudgment" after he told one of his officers to "dry your eyes" during a public, late night spat on Twitter.
Mr Hamilton later apologised for his outburst, which also included telling the officer to stop "wallowing in self pity" or "seek another job."
The row erupted in the early hours of Sunday morning when an officer tweeted concern about the increasing pressures of the job. The cop wrote: police expected to do more roles than ever anticipated by Sir Robert (Peel)! Social worker, paramedic, child minder etc."
The Chief Constable responded: "I know - more complex & challenging but we are here to serve so let's get on with it rather than wallowing in self pity!"
The officer tweeted back: "Far from self pity. If I wanted to do their job I would have applied. Just keep taking their responsibilities & no one says no."
Mr Hamilton then replied: "well you're allowed to leave & seek another job - nobody is asking you to stay. Dry your eyes, do the job or move on!"
Following a furious backlash Mr Hamilton issued an apology on Twitter and on the internal PSNI intranet for his comments.
"Last night's frank Twitter conversation was about what policing does. It is important to have meaningful exchanges on social media without lapsing into 'management speak'," he said.
"However, such issues are not always best addressed in the 140 characters of a tweet. I have clearly caused offence by my response and for this I apologise.
"The real debate needs to be about the role of the police and where that starts and finishes, and the impact it has on officers, staff and their families," he added.
"Policing is a complex and challenging profession. I am hugely proud of the work my officers and staff do every day in serving the public and I want to support and encourage these great people. My message last night would not have conveyed that support and for that I am sorry."
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland - the body that represents rank-and-file officers - described Mr Hamilton's outburst as "offensive" and a "great insult".
Chairman Mark Lindsay said: "The pressures our officers endure are nothing short of monstrous. The Chief Constable knows the extent of the problem - we have highlighted it often enough - which makes his remarks all the more bewildering. It shows how out of touch he is with his own officers, and that is deeply disappointing.
"We have thousands of days lost through a range of illnesses. We have officers grappling with psychological conditions because of the appalling things they have had to experience and witness. To cap it all, we have a Chief Constable who tells the men and women he commands that if they don't like it, they can leave and get another job."
He added: "Mr Hamilton has got this badly wrong. To say to officers 'dry your eyes, do the job or move on' amounts to great insult and a stunning misjudgment.
"The job is tough enough without the Chief Constable showing such indifference. Better if he empathised more with the men and women who deliver policing at the 'coal face'."
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said he was "incredibly disappointed" by the Chief Constable's response on Twitter to genuine concerns. He added that Mr Hamilton should "stand up for his officers when they raise genuine concerns".
One officer said the comments had "caused major damage to the already fragile morale and had silenced those who may have been trying to seek help to cope with the pressures of the job for fear of being seen as self-pitying".
"His comments are hurtful and dismissive," another officer said.
Last year 96% of those who took part in an independent survey by the Police Federation said morale within the service was low.
The PSNI has faced major budget cuts in recent years and staffing levels are lower than the minimum required.