Derry police operation in which woman allegedly pinned to ground slammed; PSNI chief says he will meet elected representatives

A Derry community organisation has issued a scathing criticism of a policing operation in Creggan on Thursday in which a woman was allegedly pinned to the ground and handcuffed by a number of police officers.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 5:37 pm
Updated Friday, 19th March 2021, 5:38 pm
Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones, on left, and Conal McFeely, Creggan Enterprises.

Creggan Neighbourhood Partnership (CNP) and Creggan Enterprises (CE) have called on the established local community organisations and structures, church leaders and all our elected representatives to demand an independent investigation into the actions of the PSNI in the Ballymagowan area of Creggan on Thursday.

In a statement it claimed: "It has become clear that the PSNI are treating Creggan as a place apart – a testing ground for highly aggressive, unnecessary and inappropriate policing

tactics which only serve to alienate this community even further.

"Many who witnessed the outworking of this 12-hour operation, carried out in Creggan yesterday, have commented that police action was heavy-handed and disproportionate."

The PSNI said yesterday’s operation was led by detectives from the PSNI Terrorism Investigation Unit (TIU) with assistance from District Policing colleagues and Operational Support Department.

The operation, called Ledging, is a stand-alone strand of Operation Arbacia, looking specifically at the New IRA’s bomb making activities.

CNP and CE, however, have raised serious concerns about how the operation was handled and said many people believe the police response was disproportionate.

"Certainly mobile phone footage of some of these incidents, circulating on social media, supports these claims. Police engagement with Creggan residents saw two local men and a number of young people injured and a woman thrown to the ground and knelt on by several officers," they claimed.

The community groups futher claimed: "A heavily armed police presence remained in the area throughout the day into the evening and incited large crowds of young people, building tensions in the community.

"A small number of local youth workers and community workers were present throughout the day - observing the activity and helping to calm the situation.

CNP and CE are growing increasingly concerned at the nature of profiling which this community and its residents are facing."

Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones responded: “The vast majority of the public welcome the action we are taking against those who are causing serious harm to the community. It was hugely frustrating and concerning to see that the disorder that broke out was being instigated in the background by people who clearly wanted to disrupt the search activity, an attempt which was unsuccessful. The search and forensic examination was fully completed and detectives believe it has been a substantial step forward in their investigation."

Chf Supt Jones claimed: “We saw young people being used to confront police and as a result it is our understanding that two males, believed to be teenagers, suffered injuries. One suffered scorch burns while holding a petrol bomb and a second male was hit on the head with a brick that was thrown by someone else involved in the disorder. It is completely unacceptable that our young people are being manipulated in this way.

“We welcome the condemnation of the attacks we saw on police from petrol bombs and want to reassure the community that we will not be deterred from taking action against those who are involved in serious criminality. We are also grateful to the community for their support and patience during the operation.

“I am happy to meet with any elected representative to discuss how police are working to keep our communities safe."

But CNP and CE claimed there was wider issue with policing the Creggan beyond yesterday, and warned that "failed policies of the past" were "counterproductive to the notion of peacebuilding and conflict transformation".

"The end result of these tactics is the creation of a sub-class of people, an entire community profiled and its public image/reputation blackened. A supposedly ‘end-justifies-the-means’ approach to policing this community is alienating a new generation and disconnecting them completely from all systems of governance.

"This situation will not improve by itself – we need a comprehensive review of policing activity in this community, and we call for senior representatives of civic society and the community, to speak out and demand independent scrutiny," they claimed.