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Police should be wary of obvious patterns

The shooting of a police officer in north Belfast is to be condemned completely. I wish the officer involved a full recovery and hope that the perpetrators are caught quickly and brought before the courts.

I am, however, concerned by the circumstances surrounding this shooting. The PSNI have indicated that the gunmen were laying in wait and this was a planned shooting, suggesting that the gunman was aware police would be at the station.

Perhaps officers were answering a call, but it is equally likely they were following a pattern easily observable by the public (and those who would wish them harm) of police officers using the same locations to buy food and refreshment for their breaks.

I live in the Lurgan area, where dissident activity is not uncommon. It is quite normal to see the same police officers in a local supermarket at predictable break times, and you could almost set your watch by police vehicles outside a local fast food outlet.

Quite apart from the poor public optics of police officers in uniform wandering around shopping, the dangers of setting such patterns in areas where the threat of dissident activity is high is foolhardy in the extreme.

We are all, to some extent, creatures of habit. Operational police officers should take time to reflect on their patterns of behaviour while both on and off duty, and on the impact it might have on their safety and the safety of those around them.

This caution was second nature for officers in the RUC, but it seems to have been lost in the brave new world of community policing.

OBSERVER

Lurgan, Co Armagh

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