Coronavirus: PSNI inquiry after officers miss shifts

By Julian O'Neill
BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

  • Published
PSNI car on patrolImage source, PAcemaker

An internal police inquiry is under way after dozens of officers did not report for duty in Londonderry and Strabane over a two-week period in April.

They were told they could be on stand-by from home, BBC News NI understands.

Once discovered, the practice was brought to "an immediate end" and an investigation was launched into the officers' conduct.

The police acknowledged the situation would have reduced the enforcement of lockdown regulations.

It is understood that on one shift as many as 28 officers did not show up.

However, the practice is thought to have involved many others between 13 April and 28 April.

It is believed the officers were told by inspectors they could be at home, without the knowledge of more senior commanders.

Image source, PAcemaker

About 200 officers in total are attached to the Derry City and Strabane District Command Unit.

The area's district commander Ch Supt Emma Bond said: "The practice is not one that had been endorsed by the senior management of the police and now has been brought to an immediate end.

"During this period police numbers on duty did not dip below pre-Covid levels, but the consequence was that an enhanced level of policing was not achieved.

"An examination of the circumstances that led to the officers being detailed to stay at home has commenced to establish how this happened and establish if any officers have done anything wrong."

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, she added: "If any misconduct matters come to light then they will be dealt with."

Image caption,
Ch Supt Emma Bond said the practice had stopped

Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said: "the important thing was when it was recognised, it was stopped."

"We shouldn't be getting carried away, whenever the facts do come out and they are all looked at, I am quite satisfied there will be a satisfactory conclusion," Mr Lindsay said.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne made the Policing Board aware of developments during a private session last week and it is now awaiting the outcome of the investigation.

As well as facing potential disciplinary action, officers could have to re-pay wages or the take the days they missed as annual leave.