Alan McQuillan was speaking to the News Letter after a probationary constable was suspended for arresting a man at a commemoration for five people murdered by the UDA on the Ormeau Road on Friday. A second constable was moved to other duties.
Mr McQuillan said a small number of middle ranking officers have told him police no longer want to enforce Covid regulations.
“They are not rebelling against their superior officers,” he said. “They are just looking the other way. The mood is that they are not going to get involved.
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“They are feeling abandoned with no guidance on how to enforce the regulations. The feeling is that if they enforce the regulations on someone who is connected politically or to paramilitaries, they are going to be hung out to dry and they are not prepared to do it. The PSNI is completely at sea on this.
“Officers are concerned that if they enforce the regulations and there is a complaint, they will be asked - ‘what did you do that for?’”
He pointed to public concerns over Covid policing of large paramilitary related gatherings on both sides of the community as a major problem.
Another former mid-ranking officer said there is “general discontent” about how the two constables were treated.
“There is a lot of confusion about how they should police Covid and where they stand in relation to protection from senior command when they do. With regards to Covid enforcement, some officers are just not wanting to put their heads on the block.”
A former senior officer said he is picking up “general unease” within the PSNI.
“Ultimately, the Chief Constable must take personal responsibility, but there is a view that those now in charge do not have the required depth of experience to respond to a developing crisis,” he said. “The trend in recent years has been to chase after and pander to every critical voice - not acknowledging that there are groups whose sole reason for existing is to criticise and destabilise society and stir up tensions. The louder a group shouts, it seems the more responsive the police are to their accusations.”
A former inspector said he too has heard “rumblings”. He added: “Even for the most innocuous incident, many frontline officers, I am sure, will believe that whatever way the political wind is blowing will sway their senior commanders.”
In response, ACC Alan Todd said the PSNI has “notified officers of the required policing response” and that if they are in any doubt “they should seek advice from their supervisors and the Strategic Coordination Centre”.
He added: “Officers have also been advised to use body-worn video to record an accurate account of dealings with the public.”
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