PSNI chief has flashbacks of girl caught under car in rioting
Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin has revealed he has flashbacks of the horrific moment a teenager was knocked down and trapped under a car during rioting in north Belfast.
Mr Martin, who was in charge of the parades policing operation during the summer, said he watched in shock as Phoebe Clawson and another woman were struck by the car at the front of Ardoyne shops on July 13.
Ms Clawson, who suffered a broken collarbone, broken pelvis and broken ankle, became trapped under the vehicle and had to be rescued by police officers who lifted the car to free her.
"I remember watching that on the screens in the gold command room," Mr Martin said.
"It was one of those heart-stopping moments. I had to take a double-check to see if that was what had really unfolded. Everyone was just holding their breath.
"I was just so delighted that the young girl, while very badly injured, survived. And I can still picture that scene unfolding in front of my eyes."
Several police officers were injured during public disorder that night, including an inspector whose ear was severed when he was hit by a brick.
"That was very upsetting for all of us," Mr Martin said. "As the senior commander for the parades season, along with my other colleagues, we plan these operations as much as possible to minimise the use of force, to minimise the risk to members of the community and also to try and focus on officer safety. When an officer gets hurt, it is hard in some way not to feel responsible because you are in control of the operation and they are out there policing on your behalf.
"I have the utmost respect for those officers who go out there knowing that they may be attacked."
Mr Martin also revealed the parades season policing operation was extremely expensive.
"A lot of public money went into it, but when you consider the hundreds and hundreds of parades that take place during those months of June, July and August and the many thousands of police officers deployed and the many thousands of bandsmen and supporters and at times protesters and the potential that exists for difficulty, I am broadly pleased with the way it went," he said.