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PSNI warns of 'organisational embarrassment' after hate crime email

The PSNI issued a warning to officers over language in emails causing "organisational embarrassment"
Brendan Hughes

THE PSNI has warned officers over language in emails causing "organisational embarrassment" after a detective bemoaned being asked to investigate a high-profile racist hate crime.

Police launched a hate crime probe last year after a Nigerian man found his east Belfast bungalow covered in banners that read, "local houses for local people".

But internal PSNI correspondence obtained by The Irish News this summer revealed that a detective constable complained about being asked to investigate.

In an email to colleagues the female officer said: "I have been assigned the above serial for my sins!"

Alliance East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle had described the remarks as a "deeply concerning insight into the wholly inadequate level of seriousness with which this hate crime was clearly treated".

The PSNI at the time said the detective was spoken to by senior officers about the message.

Shortly after the newspaper report, Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris issued a warning to all police officers and staff about their correspondence.

In an email he wrote: "Informal and casual comment within emails has the potential to cause individual and organisational embarrassment and on occasions does not present the professional image which official correspondence from the Police Service should portray.

"Comments and language which would not be considered appropriate for inclusion in hard copy letter should equally not be considered appropriate for use in internal or external emails."

Further correspondence, obtained through a freedom of information request, also suggests senior officers had considered launching an "internal discipline investigation" over the hate crime remarks.

There was widespread outrage last year after a group of residents staged a protest outside the Housing Executive property at Glenluce Drive.

Police documents suggest officers monitored the demonstration, recording details such as the number of protesters taking part.

However, no-one was arrested over the high-profile incident and within weeks police said all lines of inquiry had been "exhausted".

Race hate crimes in the north have increased by more than a third in the past year with over 1,300 incidents reported to police during 2014/15.

But the proportion leading to charges or other actions such as cautions has fallen in the last year, and is considerably lower than for crime overall.

The PSNI's success rate dropped from 17 per cent to 14 per cent over the period, compared to the 28 per cent for overall crime.

An agreed racial equality strategy has still not been published by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister – almost five years since a panel was launched to oversee it.

The PSNI has said it takes hate crime "very seriously" and it will "actively investigate all incidents reported".

But Superintendent Robert Singleton earlier this year said dealing with hate incidents is a "community matter" that requires dialogue between "communities and their representatives".

It comes after the PSNI last year said the UVF had been involved in orchestrating numerous racist attacks in south and east Belfast.

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