Backing the police means using accountability mechanisms, not grandstanding to constituents…

I meant to get this up yesteday. It’s a clip from UTV’s exclusive report on the Ballynafeigh kurfuffle last week. It’s not comprehensive by any means, but it does suggest the PSNI might have some operational questions to answer.

The process has been kicked up the Police Ombudsman, and the Policing Board should probably have an inquiry of its own into it too.

The local SDLP MLA Claire Hannah was quick to note how DUP politicians were rather too quick out of the block to point the finger of blame at the Police without leaving it to official accountability bodies.

And she has a point. There’s been a bit of a game played by both major parties to switch on and off their support for the police as and when it is politically convenient for them to do so.

Although I’m fairly sure Ms Foster’s meeting with the PSNI was more optics than substance, it sends a poor message back to the party’s core support that MLAs are merely tribal tribunes of their own communities.

In this case the Police Ombudsman has a crystalline opportunity to prove that these post Belfast Agreement accountability mechanisms are fierce and impartial. And more importantly that governance structures are more than useless affectations of the Peace Process™.

It’s the non use of these mechanisms along with the pretence that MLAs can do everything a constituent wants that’s at the heart of the residual misfiring of law and order in Northern Ireland.

That and a long, and a rather dodgy tradition of resistence politics (going right back to the Anglo Irish Agreement days and beyond in the case of the DUP) which constantly seeks to play both ends off the middle…

What suffers in the end is perhaps the most important aspect of justice, equality of all before the law

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  • PeterBrown

    The PSNI statement states

    “The other officer got off his motorcycle to assist his colleague when he was also attacked and the police motorbike damaged.

    “Due to the number of people attacking the officers, they defended themselves with their batons, CS incapacitant spray was directed only on the people attacking them and the incident was brought under control.”

    That is clearly contradicted by the video – and I have been careful not to attribute any motive or malice to the use of the CS spray so please do not put words in my mouth. I unlike you am not speculating merely commenting on what we know from the initial police response, subsequent revised statement and the video. The video clearly contradicts the police statement in a number of important respects and as a former potential RUC / PSNI applicant, DPP founder member etc I would be the first to accept they generally act in good faith (though I would dispute that only fringe republicans believe and believed that). When their version of events is clearly contradicted by video evidence then I wonder why that might be….

  • PeterBrown

    So you are no saying this footage does not contain the CS spray being used? There are none so blind as those who will not see…

  • PeterBrown

    The justification for the intervention of then police which was put forward by both the Orange Order and the band in their statement s was actual damage and the contact with cars in the police statement implies the same justification -but none of that is relevant and really is dancing on the head of pin compared to the use of the spray by the motorcycle officer on others not involved in that incident apparently when not under any threat. All of that of course assumes that we accept the blindingly obvious fact that the spray is used at 00.17-19 in the video and you now appear to be casting doubt on that

  • Brendan Heading

    That is clearly contradicted by the video

    I don’t think it is.

    In the video at between 0:15 and 0:20 we see the motorcycle cop heading towards the crowd and the point where the band member hits the cop with his drum. This confirms the first part of the PSNI statement that the officer was “attacked”.

    After this point, at 0:26, the footage stops and cuts to a point that looks like it is about a minute later. This cut happens just before the band reaches the motorcycle.

    Therefore we don’t know if the band subsequently attacked the motorcycle or not. It is therefore not “clearly contradicted” – the footage does not show what happens when the band approaches the motorcycle.

    and I have been careful not to attribute any motive or malice to the use of the CS spray so please do not put words in my mouth.

    That’s not what it sounds like.

    from the initial police response, subsequent revised statement and the video.

    Just as a reminder, your evidence that the police made a statement which was subsequently revised is based not on the direct word of the police, but on Noel Liggett’s interpretation of the police position and the fact that the police did not specifically refute that interpretation.

    It’s flimsy ground to be on when you’re assuming that the absence of a denial must mean that something is true. It could be that the police simply don’t want to muddy the water further until the ombudsman investigation is complete.

    The video clearly contradicts the police statement in a number of important respects

    You are claiming that the video “clearly contradicts” things when, at best, the video simply does not confirm what the police are saying.

    e video clearly contradicts the police statement in a number of important respects and as a former potential RUC / PSNI applicant, DPP founder member etc I would be the first to accept they generally act in good faith

    Your approach here has basically been to second guess everything they did and question their reasons for doing it.

    The only thing the video shows clearly is two sections where band members are attacking police officers. It would be some sort of travesty if a police officer got disciplined and the band members who are clearly identifiable by the band got away with doing nothing. It is a miracle that only one individual was charged out of the whole incident and this would no doubt be interpreted, by some, that the the police are going soft on the bandsmen.

  • PeterBrown

    The video appears to show to everyone except you that CS spray is used before 0.20 when the police officer is approached and is I accept under threat. If that is the case (and it is unless those on the ground apparently incapacitated by CS spray immediately afterwards are actually just offering a quick prayer for some thing) then the statement is wrong to claim that the officer was under attack and his motorcycle had been damaged before he used the spray only on those who had attacked him. It does not even show him being hit with a drum only the drum being raised and moved towards him (after he has used spray). As for the initial police version it has been stated by both the Order and the band but are they not to be believed – it is not actually contradicted by the statement but I am happy to wait for that peripheral detail to be sorted out by the Ombudsman.

    As for “Your approach here has basically been to second guess everything they did and question their reasons for doing it” how is your approach different?

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    Only a few hours ago a senior police officer was talking extensively on the media about his and other police officers’ decisions being dictated to by the “context” at the time decisions are made.

    Both legislation and human rights articles qualify the appropriateness of actions by police, in particular use of force, by the “circumstances” pertaining at the time they occur. No video clip, especially a partial disjointed one, can convey all the circumstances. Indeed even individuals at an incident scene may have conflicting, yet truly held, perceptions of what went on.

    It is for this reason that human rights protocols talk about the reasonableness and proportionality of police actions being dependent upon the “honestly held belief” of the threat an officer felt him or herself to be under at a given time.

    Whilst some on this thread are obviously having fun ‘examining’ the video for ‘clues’ that support their particular reading of the incident perhaps it would be best to reserve their sleuthing for episodes of ‘Miss Marple’ on TV.

    Again the senior police officer interviewed assured the audience that the matter is in the hands of PONI. That office, and that office alone, will have access to all the evidence that will be presented. And yes the video will form part of PONI’s investigation.

  • Bravo! I think you just summed up about 50% of post-incident MLA responses ever.

  • submariner

    Maybe is we looked at the video through the Orange tinted glasses you are using we might see this brutal officer randomly spraying a load of innocent bandsmen and kids.

  • submariner

    Can you post the evidence that one person who the PSNI have deployed CS against has ever lost their sight.

  • submariner

    But that’s not what’s being reported. The youngster involved claimed during the PUP/UVF press conference that his family had rang the hospital who advised him to go to an optician who in turn has allegedly informed him that he was lucky he was not blinded. I believe that the optician told them no such thing. I’m basing this on the fact that there is to the best of my knowledge no instance of anyone who ha been CS sprayed by PSNI ever losing their sight http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-35944830

  • PeterBrown

    I haven’t contradicted Brendan but his optician could have said it – why do i have to produce evidence for something someone else said when you don’t even back up your own claims?

  • PeterBrown

    Not even Google translate can make sense of that for me but guessing at what you are trying to get at I have never made that claim only pointed out that the video appears to be inconsistent with any police version of events to date