A HIGH-RANKING police officer is under investigation after his personal protection weapon (PPW) was fired during a late-night incident at a caravan park on the north coast.
The stray bullet passed through a nearby static home with children inside, leading to the shocked and angry owner contacting the police.
The experienced cop told officers called to the scene it was an accidental discharge, but the matter is understood to have been referred to the force's Professional Services Department (PSD).
Sunday Life knows the identity of the officer, but legal reasons prevent us from naming him.
Chief Constable Simon Byrne has been made aware of the PSD investigation into the pre-lockdown incident.
A PSNI insider said: "The line about it being an accidental discharge begs the question, what was a senior officer doing using his PPW late at night?
"He approached the owner of the neighbouring caravan and told him he would square him up for the damage and not to worry.
"But the other fella was incensed and phoned the police because his children were sleeping in the caravan."
In accordance with normal procedure, police called to the scene made the cop take a breath test.
They also sought to rule out the possibility there had been a domestic incident.
The man at the centre of the inquiry could be forced to undergo mandatory weapon retraining - an embarrassing punishment for a senior figure.
The PSNI said it took the "safe, proper storage and operation of its service issue PPWs seriously and expects officers to take the utmost care in this regard".
A spokesman added: "Each officer undergoes an extensive 10-day firearms training programme whilst at the Police College and further additional refresher training at least twice a year."
As in any case of this nature, the Police Ombudsman has been notified.
The PSNI spokesman added: "The particular circumstances of all negligent discharges will be reviewed and if, following investigation, it is deemed that retraining is required, the officer will have their PPW removed until retraining has been satisfactorily completed.
"The suitability of any police officer to have access to firearms may be subject to consideration by a Firearms Access Procedure Committee."
Police weapons were accidentally discharged 28 times between 2013 and 2018, according to the most recent PSNI figures.
During the same time, police officers in Northern Ireland deliberately fired guns just four times.
Cops based in the Lisburn and Castlereagh district accounted for six of the negligent discharges.
Whilst there is no suggestion that this was anything other than an accidental discharge of the gun, details of the stray bullet incident came after it emerged a serving police officer was under investigation over an alleged plot to kill the husband of a woman he was having an affair with.
The 38-year-old officer, who is based at Woodbourne in west Belfast, and his 40-year-old mistress were both questioned last week on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
After discovering that his wife was cheating on him, the scorned husband took her mobile phone and found a series of WhatsApp messages between the pair allegedly detailing the plot.
He presented the evidence at Lisburn PSNI station, leading to the arrests.
A PSNI spokesperson said: "Detectives arrested two people, a man aged 38 years old and a woman aged 40 years old, on suspicion of conspiracy to murder in the Lisburn area on May 28.
"Both have since been released on bail, pending further inquiries. There is no further information at this time."