Senior officer declines to answer crucial questions
Assistant chief constable Alan Todd declined to answer key questions from the Belfast Telegraph after branding claims that a PSNI policy is preventing police from breaching speed limits on non-emergency calls as false.
Despite this newspaper being unable to obtain comment from the PSNI prior to going to print on Sunday, the senior policeman was available to take to the airwaves first thing yesterday morning.
"It's not true," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show. "The Belfast Telegraph story this morning is incorrect and had they chosen to check the story with us before going to print we would have told them so."
However, Stephen Nolan informed Mr Todd that he, too, is aware of police officers who claim "there are issues" with speed limits.
Mr Todd subsequently declined an interview request from this newspaper to discuss specific questions relating to the police response to the theft of two ATMs in Ballymena last week, or the technology which monitors police drivers.
"To comment further on specifics of operational matters would only provide information which may be useful to criminals," he said.
He did not refute or complain about the content of the story and no request for a retraction or apology has been received after reporting a PSNI officer's concerns over tracking software known as Locate. The technology has resulted in officers being reprimanded and disciplined.
The officer we spoke to highlighted a distinction between priority calls - which include reports of non-violent domestic abuse and ongoing burglaries where a householder is in the property but not under immediate threat - and emergency calls.
"Obviously if you know an elderly lady is in her house during a break-in you want to get there as quickly as possible but, with the introduction of Locate, your hands are tied somewhat," they said.
"You can take the chance and drive faster than the speed limit in say a 40 or 50mph zone without triggering Locate, but if you have a crash they will go over the data and you'll have some difficult questions to answer and could even face criminal charges."
But speaking on the radio, Mr Todd said "it is the responsibility of an individual police officer to take decisions with regards to their own safety and safety of the public" when responding to a call.
"Where they feel the need to use excess speed or pursue other vehicles at excess speed then they seek authority to do so through command and control," he added.
The statement issued to the Belfast Telegraph by Mr Todd failed to answer key questions.
We asked why - if the police cars pursuing the ATM thieves in Ballymena recently were allowed to speed - were the thieves allowed to get away?
The PSNI was also asked how many vehicles responded to the stolen Tesco ATM and what type they were, as the type decides what their upper speed limit is in a non-emergency.
We also wanted to know:
- What are the set speed limits for each PSNI vehicle under the Locate system?
- Can you disclose the number of response officers in Northern Ireland who are pursuit trained?