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Number of suspended officers highest since PSNI formed

The number of police officers suspended for alleged misconduct is now at its highest level since the PSNI was formed, it was revealed today.

Forty two have been removed from their duties as they await the outcome of either internal disciplinary hearings or in some cases criminal prosecutions.

Alleged involvement in running a brothel, drunken driving and downloading porn on police computers are among the issues under investigation.

The number of suspensions has risen dramatically in the last eight months from a total of 30 in May.

At that time the Metropolitan police in London, which is three times the size of the PSNI, had 19 officers suspended.

The figures were released by the Policing Board's Human Rights committee today.

Board member Basil McCrea denied the figures suggested more wrongdoing within the police and said they were instead proof that the service was starting to deal more effectively with such incidents.

"We think this, whilst not exactly good news, is actually the sort of oversight needed in the police," said the Ulster Unionist MLA.

"Because the vast majority of the police are very honourable, decent people, doing a very good job."

The Lagan Valley representative added: "I certainly couldn't envisage that within a large organisation that there aren't some mistakes made, so I expected that there would be some figures there (in regard to suspensions).

"What encourages me in this particular instance is that the police are taking action and are seen to be taking action."

In December last year the PSNI revealed that four officers had been suspended and four repositioned after mobile phone video footage allegedly showed them recklessly driving police vehicles.

The PSNI was formed in 2001.

A spokesman for the service said it took any allegation of wrongdoing extremely seriously.

However, he said the number of suspensions had to be viewed in the context of the overall size of the force, which currently stands at more than 8,500 full and part-time officers.

"The Police Service expects its staff to behave professionally, ethically and with the utmost integrity at all times," he said.

"Any conduct, whether on or off duty, which brings or is likely to bring discredit on the Police Service may be investigated in order to establish whether or not a breach of the Code of Ethics has occurred.

"A breach of the code may result in a criminal or disciplinary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman or the Police Service and, consistent with the seriousness of an allegation, an officer may be suspended or repositioned pending the outcome of both a criminal and misconduct investigation.

"The Police Service, like any other organisation, has a disciplinary process which officers must go through. All disciplinary proceedings in connection with suspected offences committed by officers who have been suspended from duty will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible. However the officers must be subject to our disciplinary process and, where applicable, the criminal process."

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