Rethink war heroes snub, police urged

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THE chief constable has been urged to rethink the PSNI policy of banning officers from wearing charity wristbands in support of wounded service personnel.

At a meeting of the Policing Board yesterday, the DUP’s Jonathan Craig tabled a question requesting Matt Baggott clarify the force’s position on the Help for Heroes wristband issue.

The Help for Heroes charity was established in 2007 with the aim of supporting wounded servicemen and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since then, around 6.5 million of the charity’s wristbands have been sold in the UK, with more than £112 million raised overall.

Immediately following yesterday’s meeting, the PSNI issued a statement confirming that “charity wristbands, friendship bracelets, bangles or any other similar items” were not permitted to be worn by officers while in uniform.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson described the decision as “disappointing”.

“It is a matter of deep regret for the police to prohibit this type of activity which is designed to assist Help for Heroes with their much-needed fundraising efforts,” he said. “I am deeply disappointed, and I think many in the community would share that disappointment, that the PSNI have ruled that the display of a Help for Heroes logo was deemed to be incompatible with a neutral working environment.

“When I have visited our soldiers on operational service in places like Afghanistan, I have met people from Northern Ireland who come from both a Catholic and Protestant, unionist and nationalist background, who are proud to serve in our armed forces.”

The DUP MP, who previously served with the Ulster Defence Regiment, said that many of these soldiers had paid a very high price for their service and praised the charity for supporting injured and traumatised veterans.

“The police rely on public support for their own benevolent funds and I hope they will recognise that raising money to help out armed forces is equally legitimate, and not a matter that should be a point of contention,” he said.

The PSNI statement said: “Dress and appearance are vitally important in increasing confidence and enhancing the professional image of the police service.

“The PSNI have recently developed the uniform style guide to become a corporate uniform standard.

“This is part of an ongoing commitment to deliver a professional policing image, ensuring consistency in the uniform worn by officers wherever they serve.”

The statement said the standards “must be strictly adhered to” and added: “The corporate uniform standard is a living document and will be updated as required after each uniform and protective measures committee meeting.”

Many high profile celebrities have backed Help for Heroes and both Prince William and Prince Harry have been photographed displaying the wristbands.

The charity’s chief executive and co-founder, Bryn Parry, said: “Help for Heroes is non-critical, we are not here to pass judgment on whether war is right or wrong.

“We are simply here to support those whose service to the country has meant that they have experienced life-changing injuries.”