New Lodge knifing was not reported to us, says police chief
Police officers were not deployed to the scene of a stabbing at north Belfast's New Lodge bonfire site as it was not reported, a senior officer has said.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd, commander of the New Lodge policing operation, explained that the PSNI only became aware of the incident on Thursday night after viewing images on social media.
Earlier that day, more than 150 police officers were pulled out of the area on public safety grounds as those who supported the anti-internment bonfire were involved in a riot as contractors were attempting to remove the pyre.
After the bonfire was lit a video of a man appearing to stab another male close to the bonfire before brandishing the knife above his head was circulated on social media.
Speaking to the Nolan Show, Assistant Chief Constable Todd explained that as well as not knowing about the stabbing incident, he did not want officers in the vicinity of the bonfire as it could have "inflamed" the situation.
"Merely putting police officers in there to prove we could put police officers in there without a realistic objective and cause the very problem we're seeking to avoid would be counter-intuitive in my role as police commander," he said.
Three officers were injured during the violence scenes on Thursday morning. Two were knocked unconscious, while the third was hit in the face with a metal pole.
Assistant Chief Constable Todd confirmed that police have identified an individual who threw a lump of masonry knocking one of the officers unconscious.
He said that as Thursday morning's violence escalated, operational commanders asked for the use of a water cannon and plastic bullets, but he refused the request as members of the public might have been injured.
"I now have a situation developing where I see no early resolution to the object of the operation to remove the bonfire, I see increasing amounts of violence which puts my officers, there to do a job, at risk of getting injured and I would be putting the wider bystanders at risk," he continued.
"I am then also looking at the consequences of me granting authority for right and proper applications by my operational police commanders.
"I have to stop, consider that and ask myself: 'Where does this all end?'
"Once we deploy all those tactics it is inevitable, as sure as day follows night, that whilst we will make arrests of some of those responsible, we will also capture a lot of other people in that policing operation who may get injured due to the use of police force."