Police investigating threats against officer after Ormeau Road disturbance
POLICE are investigating online threats against a community officer after his name and home address were posted on a loyalist Facebook page.
The officer, who is said to have been on duty during a junior Orange Order band parade in south Belfast which sparked minor disturbances on Tuesday, has been informed about the threats to both him and his family.
It is understood that he may have to leave his home.
A PSNI spokesman said yesterday: "Police are currently investigating a number of posts on social media sites".
Over 500 people had last night shared the PUL Media Facebook post carrying a picture of the community police officer.
It sparked hundreds of comments, including threats against the officer's family and threats to target his home and pass his personal details on to dissident republicans.
The Police Ombudsman has confirmed it received several complaints about alleged officer misconduct and its investigating the use of CS spray following the parade in the Ormeau Road area.
Spray was deployed during disturbances at the end of the march, which involved junior members of the Orange Order and members of the South Belfast Young Conquerors flute band.
Police said two officers were injured and damage was caused to a police motorcycle when adult participants attacked them.
A 26-year-old man was arrested and charged with assaulting police and disorderly behaviour.
Parade organisers claimed a number of children developed swollen lips and eyes after coming into contact with the CS spray.
A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman's office appealed for any witnesses to come forward.
"We were notified by police about the use of CS Spray during an incident on the Ormeau Road yesterday and have since received a number of complaints about what happened," the spokesman said.
First Minister Arlene Foster said she had spoken with Chief Constable George Hamilton about the incident.
Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said an officer was attacked after he asked band members to step back from parked cars.
"At that point one of the officers tried to move bandsmen away from brushing against parked cars when he came under attack by a section of the band. The other officer got off his motorcycle to assist his colleague when he was also attacked and the police motorbike damaged.
"We welcome the ombudsman's investigation and we will co-operate fully with their enquiries.
"Any subsequent contact any children or young people had with CS spray particles is deeply regretted".
Mr Noble added he "would be happy to meet with any band members, organisers or anyone in the local community who have concerns about this incident in the days ahead."
Independent unionist councillor Ruth Patterson, who was critical of police actions following the parade, said last night online threats were wrong.
"I understand people are extremely angry, but we do not want to play into the hands of our detractors and allow the focus to be diverted from the real issue at hand which is brutal and horrific policing deployed in south Belfast," she said.
"The appropriate mechanism to challenge such conduct by the PSNI is the police ombudsman and I would urge people to use that avenue to have the issues investigated.
"I would call on people not to allow their justifiable anger to lead to making bad decisions such as issuing threats against police officers."
Chairman of the Police Federation, Mark Lindsay, said he was appalled the officer's name and address had been revealed given the terrorist threat level remained 'severe'.
"There is an investigation underway by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and that is where this should be left," he said.
"There is no excuse or justification for this vicious stream of abuse aimed at an officer who was simply doing his duty in a challenging situation."