The targeting by hardline republicans of the families of young Catholic police officers is a particular problem in Derry, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd has said.
The senior PSNI officer said the force was often discouraged from deploying police officers from Derry in their home city due to fears that their families could be targeted for attack.
ACC Todd identified such targeting as of particular concern in Derry and indicated it was making it more difficult for the force to deploy local ‘bobbies on the beat’.
“The factor we do have concerns about is young Catholic officers policing the area where their families live because paramilitary groupings, especially dissident republicans or self-styled dissident republicans, have used that to target their family members, especially in Derry-Londonderry, because the young folk from the family have joined the police service,” he said.
During a briefing of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in Dublin where he made the comments, ACC Todd said security concerns were the only reason the force would not deploy a particular officer in a particular area.
“We do not make any distinction between the background of officers and the areas they police except where there is a concern in a town they come from.
“Then we tend not to send them to the town because of the problems that brings,” he told the committee.
The senior police commander said these issues made it more difficult for the force to realise its community policing ambitions in Derry and some other nationalist areas.
“Ironically that flies in the face of community policing because, in a perfect world, a young Gael who comes from County Tyrone, plays in the local GAA club, has gone to the local school and joins the police service would be back delivering a policing service to that community,” he remarked.
ACC Todd said that he recognised that in other parts of Ireland and in Britain there was the potential for criminals to target families but insisted the circumstances in the North were unique.
“While we have a particular emphasis and set of problems in NI, I know that problem crops up in other jurisdictions from time to time when criminal elements target families of police officers for a range of reasons, but it is much more pronounced in NI than elsewhere,” he said.