Belfast Telegraph

George Hamilton's outburst sparked vital debate

Editor's Viewpoint

The Chief Constable's seemingly dismissive comment to a stressed officer on Twitter telling him to dry his eyes or find another job actually performed a valuable service. While George Hamilton has accepted his outburst was inappropriate, it helped raise a debate on the role of the police in modern society and the challenges facing officers.

And far from officers being told to stop wallowing in self-pity, there is a well resourced clinical service available to policemen and women under pressure. Admittedly the current 18-week wait for counselling for officers suffering mental health or post traumatic stress disorder problems is too long, but it is improving and it is encouraging that the PSNI's occupational health and welfare provision is seen as a model for other public services.

And it needs to be, for police officers face many complex problems in their day-to-day work, from tackling crime, to assaults - there is one directed at police every three hours - to helping vulnerable people in need.

The modern police officer is part crime-fighter and part social worker and often have to work in collaboration with other social service providers.

And, of course, as an additional backdrop there is the ever-constant terrorist threat from dissident republicans. Even if an officer does not experience any direct assault from that source there is bound to be the constant worry of being targeted or having one's family come under threat.

Being a police officer means being always on the front line and in Northern Ireland that can also mean being under threat, even when not at work.

It is right that the force has recognised the pressures put on officers and has made its health and welfare services freely available, even at a time when budgetary cuts - and another £40m of savings are expected in this financial year - are ongoing, reducing police numbers significantly.

As well, the force is still tasked with investigating the legacies of the Troubles, eating up resources which limit its ability to police the present. That places an onus on our political leaders to put in place as soon as possible bodies specifically charged with dealing with the past.

As the Chief Constable outlines in this newspaper, there are many other issues which are required to provide a more comprehensive and cohesive policing and support service to the public. This is a debate which is far from finished.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph