Belfast Telegraph

PSNI suspends four over offensive text messages

By Deborah McAleese

The PSNI has been challenged to scrutinise the level of racism within the force after four officers were suspended over “deeply offensive” text messages.

An internal investigation was launched and the officers suspended from duty on Thursday following the exchange of racist and sectarian text messages.

The messages were discovered during a separate internal police investigation and their content immediately brought to the attention of senior management.

The controversy comes as a row rages over racism at the Metropolitan Police in London after eight officers were suspended from the force.

The swift action of the PSNI in dealing with the matter has been welcomed. However, the revelations have sparked questions over how rife racism and sectarianism could be within the organisation.

Alliance MLA Anna Lo said: “I now would like to see a rigorous investigation to see how widespread this is. Hopefully this case is very isolated, but I would be very concerned that it could just be the tip of the iceberg.

“Sadly something like this is not going to help public confidence in the police, especially within ethnic minority communities.

“However, I am happy that the PSNI seems to have reacted swiftly and openly, and taken the appropriate approach.”

Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie said the officers at the centre of the inquiry work in various areas throughout the PSNI and are not senior members of staff.

Ms Gillespie said the issue was a matter of “immense gravity” to the PSNI and vowed that racist and sectarian behaviour by police officers would not be tolerated.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for officers to engage in racist and sectarian language and no less unacceptable to exchange that in the form of texts, and hence the officers have been suspended,” Ms Gillespie said.

“We expect our officers and staff to behave with the highest standard of ethical behaviour both on and off duty, and this is an example of just how seriously this organisation is treating the matter.”

The Northern Ireland Policing Board welcomed the suspension of the officers and said that “misconduct of this nature cannot be tolerated by the PSNI”.

Sinn Fein Policing Board member Gerry Kelly said it was incumbent on police officers to be “impartial, anti-sectarian and anti-racist in their approach”.

“We are looking for an impartial police service that treats all citizens the same. When you get this you are aware that this isn’t happening. However, senior management has moved on it. It sends out a message that this will not be tolerated. I welcome the fact it was made public,” he said.

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