Belfast Telegraph

Police chief Simon Byrne under the spotlight on Facebook Q and A

Simon Byrne took part in a Q and A session on the PSNI Craigavon Facebook page
Simon Byrne took part in a Q and A session on the PSNI Craigavon Facebook page

The new PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne has taken part in a Q and A session on Facebook, facing questions on drug policy, funding and a controversial comment from his predecessor, George Hamilton.

Mr Byrne, who officially took over the post on July 1, has been extremely active on social media as he gets familiar with the new role.

On Sunday, he visited his officers in Craigavon and put himself to the test against members of the public on the PSNI Craigavon Facebook page.

One user, Dave Parkinson, asked how much extra funding the PSNI would need each year to meet service needs to his level of satisfaction.

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In response, Mr Byrne wrote: "It's too early to say for me personally as we will be reviewing things like the operating model, the estate and more use of technology."

Stephen Hanna asked how the new police chief intends to free up officers carrying out duties at Craigavon Area Hospital.

"It seems your officers through no fault of their own are tied up for hours with prisoners/patients with mental health issues. I'm sure the boots on the ground would much rather be carrying out their duties than spending hours at Craigavon Area Hospital," he wrote.

Mr Byrne said the local PSNI commander has met with the chief executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust and "work is ongoing to address this very issue".

Over the course of the Q and A, he also said he is working on improving the PSNI's non-emergency 101 service.

Perhaps one of the more sensitive questions asked related to a social media comment from Mr Byrne's predecessor.

One user asked: "Are you going to support your officers and not tell them to dry their eyes and get on with it like Mr Hamilton?"

In August 2016, the then-Chief Constable George Hamilton told one of his officers to "dry your eyes" on Twitter, after the officer posted a message of concern about the increasing pressures of the job.

He later apologised after the Police Federation called on him to withdraw the "offensive" comments.

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Simon Byrne said: "Let's not worry about the past, but care and compassion are important to officer and staff wellbeing."

Derrick Hardy asked if the new police chief felt the war on drugs could be won and how members of the public can help the PSNI fight it.

Mr Byrne responded: "The war against drugs is about long term policy and health and societal problems as much as it is a policing issue.

"For now, if you know who is pedaling drugs in your community, give us a call or ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or private message any of our social media pages."

During the session, Mr Byrne also stated he will not be joining his officers at Belfast Pride this year, as he has a "prior commitment" which he cannot change, but he "supports the officers who attend".

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