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Surge in police discipline cases

Published 18/06/2015

More police officers are being subjected to disciplinary procedures
More police officers are being subjected to disciplinary procedures

The number of police officers and staff recommended for disciplinary action in Northern Ireland has increased sharply, a watchdog revealed.

The Police Ombudsman called for individuals to be disciplined on 380 occasions last year, his office confirmed. That total rose by almost 150 on the previous year.

One officer was disciplined after an investigation concluded he had grabbed a youth by his coat and shaken him while using abusive language.

In another case a policeman alleged to have grabbed a teenage girl by her hair and cardigan and tripped her up while wrenching a music speaker from her grasp was cautioned for assault.

The latest figures revealed significant decreases in two of the most common allegations made against police officers during 2014-15.

Last year the number of allegations which said that a police officer had displayed oppressive behaviour like harassment or assault fell by 28% to 1,400 complaints.

The number of allegations of incivility by an officer, suggestions they had been rude or shown lack of respect, fell by 23% to 421.

The largest number of allegations received by the office - those which claimed an officer had failed in his or her duty - rose by 5% to 2,381.

More than 60 recommendations were made during 2014/15 for change to PSNI policy or procedures in areas including the safety of custody suites, the use of vehicles and the policing of public unrest, the Ombudsman said.

The figures are contained in the office's latest Annual Statistical Bulletin, which covers the period from April 2014 to March 2015.

The office fully investigated 1,331 complaints. In 368 cases it found evidence to uphold the complaint or identified an issue of concern.

On 12 occasions it recommended that officers be prosecuted.

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said: "The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is committed to delivering a professional policing service that keeps people safe. Every day the Police Service deals with approximately 1,338 calls for service and on occasions the service delivered can fall short of what should be expected.

"We welcome the 10% reduction in complaints made against police officers to the Police Ombudsman during the 2014/15 financial year.

"The public expect police officers to fulfil their duty, fairly and professionally. Where it is alleged that conduct falls short of these high standards, it is right that officers should face an impartial, rigorous investigation by the Police Ombudsman's office.

"In respect of the 1,331 investigations mounted by PONI the Police Service has supported the Ombudsman fully. Where complaints are substantiated the PSNI will work closely with PONI to ensure that lessons are learned and where necessary police officers are subject to an appropriate misconduct investigation."

The PSNI also welcomed the very substantial reductions in the number of allegations relating to oppressive behaviour and incivility.

"The PSNI has invested a significant effort in achieving these reductions which have brought these figures the their lowest level for six years."

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