PSNI acts to suspend 'sectarian' texts row officers
THE Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has been challenged to scrutinise the level of racism within the service after four officers were suspended over "deeply offensive" text messages.
An internal investigation was launched and the officers suspended from duty on Thursday following the exchange of racist and sectarian text messages.
The messages were discovered during a separate internal police investigation and their content immediately brought to the attention of senior management.
The controversy comes as a row rages over racism at the Metropolitan Police in London after eight officers were suspended from the force.
The swift action of the PSNI in dealing with the matter has been welcomed. However, the revelations have sparked questions over how rife racism could be within the organisation.
"I now would like to see a rigorous investigation to see how widespread this is. Hopefully this case is very isolated but I would be very concerned that it could just be the tip of the iceberg," Alliance MLA Anna Lo said.
Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie said the officers at the centre of the inquiry work in various areas throughout the PSNI and are not senior members of staff.
Ms Gillespie said the issue was a matter of "immense gravity" to the PSNI and vowed that racist and sectarian behaviour by officers would not be tolerated.
"It is absolutely unacceptable for officers to engage in racist and sectarian language and far less to exchange that in the form of texts and hence the officers have been suspended," Ms Gillespie said.
The Northern Ireland Policing Board welcomed the suspensions and said that "misconduct of this nature cannot be tolerated by the PSNI".
Sinn Fein Policing Board member Gerry Kelly said it was incumbent that police officers should be "impartial, anti-sectarian and anti-racist."
"We are looking for an impartial police service that treats all citizens the same. When you get this you are aware that this isn't happening. However, senior management has moved on it. It sends out a message that this will not be tolerated," he said.