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Police chief's tweets show poor example

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 22/08/2016

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton

There are strains at all levels in serving with the PSNI, but the behaviour of Chief Constable George Hamilton in becoming involved in a social media row with members of his own force was disappointing, unedifying and boorish.

It began as a light-hearted Twitter appeal for police recruits by the Chief Constable shortly after midnight on Sunday.

However, this quickly deteriorated into an unpleasant exchange, with Mr Hamilton accusing one respondent of "wallowing in self-pity".

Another was advised to "dry your eyes and move on" if he was not happy working in the PSNI.

Apart from the exchange of remarks, some people may be wondering what the Chief Constable was doing indulging in a social media exchange of this nature.

This exchange was particularly disturbing because the apparent police officers were raising concerns which any Chief Constable should be sympathetic to, including the strain that officers are experiencing because of their huge workload.

The Police Federation has already drawn attention to the manpower shortages the PSNI is facing, and also its low morale. This will not be improved by the force's leader, in effect, telling his officers to like their job or lump it.

It is hard not to disagree with the Police Federation's view that the Chief Constable's remarks amounted to a "stunning misjudgment".

To be fair, Mr Hamilton was quick to admit that he had made a mistake, and his apology was accompanied by encouragement for officers dealing with front line strains.

Hopefully this will limit some of the damage caused by his remarks.

The job of Chief Constable of the PSNI is one of the most difficult policing roles in the world.

It requires considerable expertise, and also the skills of an accomplished diplomat.

Up to now Mr Hamilton has won deserved praise for his plain speaking.

However, there are occasions when words cannot be "unexpressed", or withdrawn with impunity.

In this instance the Chief Constable has let himself down. However, the situation is not totally irretrievable, and hopefully Mr Hamilton will learn from his experience.

The PSNI has a difficult job, and the public wants to be reassured that the Chief Constable and his colleagues respect and trust one another.

Belfast Telegraph

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