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Friday 9 December 2016

Police chief apologises over 'dry your eyes' Twitter jibe

Brian Hutton

Published 22/08/2016 | 12:32

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Northern Ireland's police chief has been forced into an embarrassing apology over a late-night tweet suggesting officers overwhelmed by the job should "dry your eyes" or "move on".

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Chief Constable George Hamilton was responding to an anonymous person on Twitter shortly after midnight on Sunday as he posted a light-hearted appeal for new recruits.

One Twitter user, apparently a police officer who says he lives with depression and pain, responded that police were expected to be social workers, paramedics and child minders as well.

"I know - more complex & challenging but we are here to serve so let's get on with it rather than wallowing in self pity!" Mr Hamilton replied on his verified Twitter account.

When the man denied he was wallowing in self pity, Mr Hamilton again responded: "well you're allowed to leave & seek another job - nobody is asking you to stay.

"Dry your eyes, do the job or move on!"

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents more than 10,000 rank and file PSNI officers, accused him of a "stunning misjudgment" and demanded an apology for what they described as "offensive comments".

Later on Sunday afternoon, Mr Hamilton posted a video of himself saying sorry for his remarks.

"Last night's frank Twitter conversation was what the police actually do, however such important issues are not best dealt with in the 140 characters of a tweet," he said.

"I've clearly caused some offence in what I've said and for that I apologise.

"You see, I'm hugely proud of the officers and staff who go out and serve the public every day.

"I want to encourage and support them and I accept that my comments last night would have not have conveyed that support. For that I'm sorry."

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Policing Federation of Northern Ireland, said the pressures endured by officers "are nothing short of monstrous".

"The Chief Constable knows the extent of the problem - we have highlighted it often enough - which makes his remarks all the more bewildering.

"It shows how out of touch he is with his own officers and that is deeply disappointing."

Mr Lindsay said officers are grappling with psychological conditions because of the appalling things they have to experience and witness in the line of duty.

"To cap it all, we have a chief constable who tells the men and women he commands that if they don't like it, they can leave and get another job," he added.

"Mr Hamilton has got this badly wrong.

"To say to officers to 'dry your eyes, do the job or move on' amounts to great insult and a stunning misjudgment."

Mr Hamilton's remarks also drew a fierce response from other users on Twitter.

The Chief Constable had posted an advertisement from 1839 calling for recruits to Sir Robert Peel's Metropolitan Police.

He said: "Think about career in policing - we want citizens to serve from ALL backgrounds. Terms & Conditions have improved."

Doug Beattie, Ulster Unionist MLA and party justice spokesman, said Mr Hamilton's remarks were "wrong".

"There are genuine concerns within the rank and file of the Northern Ireland police service that officers are being used to fill the gaps that other services should be filling," he said.

"That includes being a medical first responder, dealing with mental health and social service issues, and all while delivering policing services within our communities fragmented by terrorism, paramilitary activity and a divided society."

Mr Beattie said he is "incredibly disappointed" by the chief constable's Twitter account remarks.

"He has a difficult task on his hands with an ever-decreasing budget and political masters who are slow to make decisions," he said.

"But there comes a time when he must say enough is enough and stand up for his officers when they raise genuine concerns.

"I hope he reflects on his poorly-formulated tweet, deletes it and makes it known that he is not a 'carry on regardless' chief constable but a man of integrity who will not allow our service to degrade to little more than a political football."

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