There is growing anger amongst the loyalist community due to a huge increase in police harassment, and targeted stop and search operations, for which the PSNI have on many occasions been unable to provide the correct paperwork or explain the appropriate legislation.
After a plethora of republican shootings and criminality, the PSNI have encamped themselves in loyalist communities and in recent days have carried out targeted harassment of community workers, children and young people.
The PSNI are currently under investigation by the Police Ombudsman for a number of malicious arrests, leaking of classified information and targeting prominent loyalists via fake social media accounts.
Other Police Ombudsman complaints also relate to undercover surveillance operations in which images of children are being captured, these include potential breaches of RIPA in terms of covert surveillance.
It is believed that the majority of harassment is being carried out by the PSNI’s ‘Task Force’, who have been secretly mandated to pursue those within the loyalist community deemed not to be ‘on message’.
A spokesperson for the East Belfast Community Initiative, which has dealt with a vast number of complaints from community development workers in the East Belfast, North Down and Newtownards areas, said;
“The PSNI’s recent conduct is little short of appalling. Everyone welcomes the pursuit of crime, but let’s not kid ourselves. This targeted harassment is not about the pursuit of crime, it is about trying to chastise those deemed to be politically inconvenient.
“We would encourage all those who are the victims of this increasing harassment to log details of every police vehicle engaged in targeted harassment, and where possible the officers number, and to record these details and the frequency of the harassment, in order that a complaint can be submitted to the police Ombudsman.
“We would also advise that at all times a stop and search form is requested, and if the PSNI fail to provide the appropriate paperwork, then again this is grounds for a complaint to the Police Ombudsman.
“The EBCI are also aware of a number of parents expressing concern in relation to surveillance cameras taking photos of their children, and officers hitting their horns and flashing their lights into children’s bedrooms at night. Again, we urge people to try and video this behaviour and to log the registrations of same.
“Due to a large number of unmarked police cars creeping about, it is difficult to tell the difference between police officers and those who are potentially engaging in crime or taking pictures of children. We would urge all persons who see any suspect vehicles to log the details and ring the PSNI’s emergency line 101 and report the suspicious activity.
“We are aware that there has been an emergency facebook page whereby anyone that is the victim of police harassment can post details of what has happened to them, and alert other potential victims of the PSNI’s behaviour. This page can also provide the opportunity for victims of harassment, or those concerned about suspicious activity, to upload details of same and share it with their fellow citizens.”
In summary the community development group advised members of the community to follow the following steps;
- Log details of all PSNI vehicles and officers engaged in targeted harassment. If possible record all interactions on your mobile telephone and upload them onto the dedicated ‘PSNI harassment of the loyalist community’ Facebook page.
- Report ALL harassment to the Police Ombudsman.
- If you see ANY suspicious activity, including unknown cars creeping around, then phone the PSNI’s emergency 101 line straight away and post details of the activity to the ‘PSNI harassment of the loyalist community’ Facebook page.
There is also a ‘Three steps to ending Police harassment’ campaign due to be launched soon. It will focus on the following steps and use #LogShareReport;
- Log and/or record the harassment and the officers/vehicles involved
- Share the details and video/audio on social media
- Report the harassment to the Police Ombudsman