Chief Constable Simon Byrne apologises to members of the Black and Minority Ethnic community over handling of protests

The PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has apologised to members of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community who were left angry and frustrated over how Black Lives Matter protests were handled in Derry and Belfast in June.
Simon ByrneSimon Byrne
Simon Byrne

He made the apology after an investigation report by the Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson concluded that claims the police handling of ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests in Derry and Belfast and a counter demonstration in Belfast earlier this year amounted to unfairness and discrimination were justified.

Following the publication of the Police Ombudsman’s Report the Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “The report from the Police Ombudsman provides an important commentary about pressures arising from the policing operation on two days in June this year in unique and novel circumstances, using policing powers derived from emergency public health Regulations.

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“From the outset, both personally and as an organisation, we were alive to the widespread revulsion at the events that led to the death of George Floyd in the USA.

“We tried our best to respect the public health requirements of the Northern Ireland Executive to save lives and at the same time deal with public outcry triggered by this awful death. We operated within the legal framework available to us at the time, but the Ombudsman is clear that whilst unintentional, we got that balance procedurally wrong."

While the Ombudsman's report found that the discrimination was not intentional and it was not based on race or ethnicity she made a number of recommendations including that the PSNI consider adopting a human rights-based approach to the policing of protests.

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The Chief Constable said: “As is only prudent and as the Ombudsman herself says in her comprehensive report, we will now seek to embrace the lessons learned and carefully consider her specific recommendations about policy, practice and procedural fairness.

“Our first step has already been to announce our new Community Relations Taskforce to help us do just that. We will provide more details about this early next year.

“We will have to review this report in concert with the earlier report from the Policing Board and I will report our next steps further in January.

“However, it is clear to me that some members of the Black and Minority Ethnic Community have been frustrated, angry and upset by our policing response and our relationship with them has suffered. For that I am sorry, and I am determined in that regard to put things right.”