Belfast Telegraph

PSNI Chief Constable defends U-turn on decision to suspend officers

By Chris Kilpatrick

Police officers whose suspensions were reconsidered due to budget cuts face allegations including misconduct, theft, death in custody and drink-driving.

A review of the suspensions of 21 police officers was carried out after the force cut more than 300 staff before Christmas.

Eight subsequently had their suspensions rescinded.

Chief Constable George Hamilton has defended the move, insisting the decision to reinstate the officers did not impact on final disciplinary action they may face.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal those currently facing disciplinary action are accused of offences including perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office, driving with excess alcohol, death in custody, selling counterfeit goods, theft, disorderly behaviour and tampering with a motor vehicle.

Mr Hamilton told the Policing Board: "I can advise that this matter was initially considered in October 2014 after it became clear that approximately 320 staff members were to leave the PSNI by December 2014 due to budget cuts.

"At that particular time there were 21 officers suspended from duty. In light of the extraordinary budget cuts and pressing staff losses, the decision was taken to review all suspensions with a view to examine if there was an opportunity to return any of the suspended officers to duty in a restricted capacity.

"There are a number of officers who have been suspended from duty after this tranche of 21 officers were initially reviewed.

"Reviews were undertaken which have resulted in eight officers having their suspensions rescinded. Six were subsequently repositioned to other duties, and two have been returned to the full range of duties. Of the six repositioned, two are deployed in administrative roles and four in security roles."

Officers who are under investigation for allegations of wrongdoing are usually suspended on full pay pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

However, that policy was changed after Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris carried out a PSNI-wide review of suspension cases. "The officers involved have been advised that the decision to lift suspension does not in any way lessen the seriousness with which the service views the alleged behaviour, and will not impact on any final decision regarding misconduct action," Mr Hamilton said.

"Suspensions are reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure that they remain appropriate and proportionate.

"The six repositioned officers are in restricted posts which include minimal public contact and restricted access to police information."

Background

Last month it emerged police officers who were suspended due to misconduct allegations had returned to work while their cases were still under investigation. The PSNI said it has taken the decision due to financial pressures on its budget. Police said they had carried out a review and decided that a small number of officers could return to "restricted duties". Officers who are under investigation for allegations of wrongdoing are usually suspended on full pay pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

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