Foyle Pride Festival: Uniformed dancing PSNI officer sparks debate
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PSNI Officer Paul Bloomer, co-chair of the PSNI LGBT Network, carried out the Macarena dance on a video clip with a member of the public, which then prompted almost 400 comments online.
The PSNI LGBT Network account which posted the video, said: “We’re here @FoylePrideFest dancing the Macarena to engage with the public and to show some support for our colleagues in @LincsPolice. Happy Pride everyone celebrating this weekend.”
One Tweeter called ‘Sam’ replied: “I’m sure those who have been recently robbed, assaulted, had their car or van stolen or mugged, and then given just a crime number, will find this hilarious”.
However North Down UUP member and LGBT activist Michael Palmer defended Mr Bloomer.
“Whatever your view of the dancing police officer at Foyle Pride, look at some of the comments that were made about him,” he said. “They go far beyond criticism. Some of it is nasty and hatred. Remember: he is a person as well. Would those comments be made if it weren’t Pride? I do wonder...”.
But Lord John Kilclooney was one poster who was not convinced. “Sadly the dancing police officer makes the PSNI look like a joke!!” he replied.
One commenter compared the video to policing of Notting Hill Carnival. “Expect to see more shameful & embarrassing scenes like this from the police,” he said. “I wonder how many stabbings there will be this year.”
Another said that in NI there are groups “with distinct issues in respect of identity”. He added: “I firmly believe as others do that no uniform officer should be taking part in any of the parades connected to any specific group.”
Instead he advocated a PSNI stall on the Pride parade route. “This [in my humble opinion] fulfils the organisation objective of inclusivity and engagement without showing any preferential treatment to one group or other.”
Preacher Ryan Williamson, who was arrested by the PSNI in Larne after preaching against homosexuality but later acquitted of all charges on grounds of the European Convention of Human Rights, claimed that such actions by the PSNI demonstrate “a lack of impartiality on policing matters of sexuality and freedom of speech”.
He added: “I faced widespread harassment by the PSNI for preaching against homosexuality until a judge ruled that I was well within my European Convention of Human Rights to do so and acquitted me of all charges. I wonder if the PSNI would allow on-duty officer to sing hymns at an open air gospel service with me?”
The News Letter asked the PSNI if on-duty officers are permitted to participate in parades organised by republicans or the loyal orders, or indeed if they can participate in open air church services.
However in its response the PSNI did not acknowledge the difference between ‘attending” various cultural events and active participation in them, and did not give a direct answer to the question.
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd said: “Police Service of Northern Ireland officers regularly attend numerous cultural, religious events and gatherings across Northern Ireland. Pride is an important series of events for those who identify as being LGBT+. We see our attendance as not only an opportunity to highlight that hate crime, in whatever form, is wrong but also to engage with and show support for our LGBT+ community.
“Hate crime, in particular homophobic and transphobic attacks, are well known to be under reported crimes. We want members of our LGBT+ communities to feel represented by their Police Service and to know that if they come forward to report they will be met with fairness and respect.”