PSNI merely drew attention to itself over text saga

Morning View

Morning View

When police officers were suspended from the PSNI almost two years ago over supposedly “racist and sectarian” text messages, a press conference was convened to explain the drama.

The police service’s then second-in-command presided over the media event.

Now it emerges that the officers have been reinstated after almost 16 months at home on full pay.

We were told at the time that the “deeply offensive” texts had been found on the officers’ phones.

A number of factors in this case remain unknown to the public, such as whether the officers were working at the time they sent these messages, and whether they were using work phones.

But one aspect of this saga does seem to be clear: the messages, and the context in which they were sent, cannot have been that serious, or the officers would have been sacked.

That being so, why was a press conference called, generating headlines in Northern Ireland and beyond?

It has emerged that the officers were fined, and this may well have been an appropriate punishment.

But conduct that is worthy of disciplinary action, such as a fine, is not the same as conduct that is worthy of major publicity.

By calling a major conference, the PSNI seemed to think that it was showing how robustly it deals with anything that is remotely discriminatory, including humour.

It is essential that the police is seen to be impartial, and rigidly opposed to any discrimination.

But calling a press conference, as would be fitting if the PSNI had become embroiled in a major scandal, merely gave people the impression that some of its officers had such deeply unpleasant tastes that they perhaps even crossed criminal boundaries.

This evidently was not the case, or we would today be reading about sackings, as would have been appropriate in such circumstances.




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