PSNI chief constable George Hamilton has been given the backing of a DUP councillor following his letter in today’s News Letter defending his decision to allow officers to march in a gay parade.
But a former police officer has criticised the PSNI for failing to abide by its own rules after taking part in Belfast’s Pride parade in uniform.
DUP Ards & North Down councillor Tom Smith backed the PSNI chief, tweeting: “Fully support the chief constable. PSNI supporting a minority thats been abused and persecuted– remember we used to imprison gay people!”
Recently Mr Smith step ped away from his party’s past opposition to homosexuality by stating “there is nothing wrong with being gay”.
Not all reaction to Mr Hamilton’s letter was positive, in which he said: “I can assure you that our decisions around Pride had no political basis. The PSNI is neutral on the issue of equal marriage and I have stated this publicly.” He said LGBT people suffered under reported hate crime.
“Pride is an important series of events for those in the community who identify as being LGBT and therefore provides an effective opportunity for engagement.”
Ex RUC man Ken McFarland, who had criticised the PSNI Pride stance, again rounded on police today.
Writing on Facebook, he pointed out the PSNI’s Code of Ethics on Public Activity states: ‘You are permitted to attend public rallies and/or meetings. However, attendance must be off duty and no item of uniform or clothing or other article may be worn which is likely to create the impression that the wearer is a police officer.’
Mr McFarland said: “If the PSNI can’t even abide by their own rules, what example does that set for society?”
A PSNI spokesman said the part of Code of Ethics to which Mr McFarland referred is addressed to individual officers.
He added: “Participation in Pride does not imply that the PSNI endorse any political causes. PSNI is a politically neutral organisation and our decision to participate in Pride is an opportunity not only to show visible support for the LGBTQ community but also to highlight that Hate Crime is unacceptable.
“All police attendees taking part ... did so in their own time. Permission was granted by the deputy chief constable for officers to attend in uniform and to represent the PSNI.”
• Mr Hamilton’s letter online www.newsletter.co.uk