IN July it emerged that PSNI officers accused of being engaged in disgusting acts of sectarianism and depravity are under active investigation by the Police Ombudsman. That investigation has lasted for five years, with one of the officers suspended for that time with full pay.
They are accused of posing with the body of a man who committed suicide, taking and sharing photographs of this man with his genitals exposed and of making sectarian comments in relation to this.
When the full details of the investigation made the headlines the Chief Constable made a statement full of words like, “condemn”, “harrowing” and “shocking” and said he felt that the PSNI was besmirched. All of this after the case made it into the media. After five years.
Breaking @BBCNewsNI— Mandy McAuley (@mandy_mcauley) July 6, 2022
One of the most disturbing stories I have worked on.
The horrified family of a young man who took his own life in 2017 speak out.
Two #PSNI officers investigated for allegedly sharing images of his body on WhatsApp with genitals exposed @BBCSpotlightNI https://t.co/a0X16jWAvk
The father of the man who died by suicide has recently passed away, only weeks after his heartbreaking media interview on what had happened to the body of his son. His traumatised family has truly suffered unimaginable heartbreak, coupled with being utterly failed by an accountability system. This family, despite their trauma, has performed a huge public service by sharing the details of their experience with us all. We may never have known what happened had they not had the courage to share it with a journalist, and that journalist not made it public.
As the publicity associated with the case occurred during the summer, it is possible that those whose responsibility it is to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done believe that they have dodged a public crisis.
In February 2021 the families of the Sean Grahams atrocity were subject to outrageous treatment by the PSNI at a small, discreet anniversary event, held under all social distancing observations. Mark Sykes was arrested and charged at that time.
Thankfully the entire proceedings were captured on video and the public made up their own mind about what happened. The public shared the families’ outrage.
Bereaved families affected by state collusion in the north west, who received a damning Police Ombudsman report in January this year, were surprised to learn that retired RUC officers were challenging the authority of the Police Ombudsman to make findings of stinking state involvement in murders over 30 years ago. They were even more surprised to discover that the Police Federation – the trade union of current PSNI officers – has joined in that challenge. When the PSNI Chief Constable had nothing to say about the collusion in these killings or in the killings examined by the subsequent Police Ombudsman report on state collusion in the Ormeau Road area, a very concerning picture of state bias is painted.
The PSNI and the Policing Board cannot continue to view these matters in isolation. Our community needs effective and accountable and human rights-compliant policing. By contrast it hardly needs to be said that we do not need sectarian cowboys wedded to the reputation of the RUC. Young Catholics seem to have made their mind up about which they are with only 24% of new recruits being Catholic.
As we face into significant policing issues of how the constitutional conversation is protected and made safe, and how policing addresses the sabre rattling of a unionist loyalist nexus that wishes to “raise Carson’s Army” there is a reasonable lack of faith in the PSNI to meet those challenges.
This should gravely concern us all.