PSNI protocols are being questioned after it was revealed that dozens of police officers did not report for duty in Strabane and Derry during a two-week period in April.
Reportedly told that they could be on stand-by from home, it is understood that on one shift as many as 28 officers did not show up.
It is believed the officers were told by inspectors they could be at home, but that this happened without the knowledge of more senior commanders.
However, once discovered, the activity was brought to an end and an internal investigation was launched into the officers’ conduct.
Some 200 officers in total work with the Derry City and Strabane District Command Unit.
“I don’t know how it’s possible for PSNI officers, who are meant to be on patrol and attend incidents, to work from home,” West Tyrone MLA and former member of the Policing Board, Daniel McCrossan said. “Thankfully, in Strabane, the vast majority have abided by the lockdown rules. Our community has to be acknowledged for that.
“But it’s concerning that there was little police presence at a crucial and critical time when the virus was at its peak. They were not there to issue fines or to disperse those who were not abiding. It also calls into question how responsive the PSNI were to other crimes and was it the case they got lucky as there were no serious incidents?
Major questions need to be asked,” he said.
“The SDLP will be raising this issue at the Policing Board at the earliest opportunity.”
This week the PSNI acknowledged the situation would have reduced the enforcement of lockdown regulations.
Speaking to Radio Foyle district commander Emma Bond stated, “The practice is not one that had been endorsed by the senior management of the police and now has been brought to an immediate end. During this period police numbers on duty did not dip below pre-Covid levels, but the consequence was that an enhanced level of policing was not achieved.
“An examination of the circumstances that led to the officers being detailed to stay at home has commenced to establish how this happened and establish if any officers have done anything wrong.”
She added “If any misconduct matters come to light then they will be dealt with.”
As well as potential disciplinary action, officers could face having to re-pay wages or take the days they missed as annual leave.