What can the Police Ombudsman investigate?

Video 2 /

ROSIE says she felt her options were shut down after she contacted the Police Ombudsman’s office to complain about the raid on her home and she feels she was misled.

As she sets out in the video above, she says she was told that the Police Ombudsman could not investigate because only the PSNI’s Professional Standards Department can question the deployment of the armed response unit.

When The Detail raised Rosie’s concerns with the Police Ombudsman’s office a spokesperson did not dispute Rosie’s version of events but said there might have been a breakdown in communication.

We were we were informed that Rose did indeed have a means by which to pursue a complaint on the armed response unit’s search operation on her home last October.

This is the statement provided by the Ombudsman’s office to The Detail:

“A member of the public can make a complaint against any police officer in any situation and we will consider it. We look at issues of whether the police officer has broken the law or breached his or her code of conduct. We will ask if he or she has followed police rules and guidance.

“Having done this, it sometimes appears that the contested issue is not the actions of the individual officer but a more general one about police policy or procedures. We do not investigate such issues: the Chief Constable must have ‘operational independence.’

“As an example, it is for the Police to decide if it wants to use an armed response unit to deal with a given situation. Complaining that police used an armed response unit in a given situation is not something we can deal with.

“However, if a member of the public makes a complaint about the conduct of an officer or officers during that incident – either a complaint about something they did or some they failed to do, that will be something for us to consider.

“Members of the public do not need to know the identity of a police officer before they can make a complaint about him or her. However, the more information they can give us which will identify that officer the better. If a member of the public has such a complaint, they should make it to us within 12 months of the incident in question.”

Rosie also contacted South Antrim MP, the Rev William McCrea, who offered her the same advice – to complain about the conduct of the officer in charge of the armed response unit.

Rosie has decided to proceed with a complaint. These are some of the questions Rosie has now put into writing for the Ombudsman’s office:

  1. Why did Constable feel that sending the Armed Response Unit in to raid the home of two known disabled people and their two young children was appropriate when this family are known to the local PSNI as having absolutely no affiliations of any sort to any paramilitary organisations?
  1. Did Constable * take any actions at all to verify the unproven allegation of the possession of a gun made by the ****** before he made the decision to involve the Armed Response Unit?
  1. When Constable * made his initial decision to deploy the Armed Response Unit, did he not even consider attempting to obtain a contact telephone number for either my husband or myself first, especially as both our contact numbers are currently held by Community Sergeant ******* ******* and her two constables, * * and his partner? Surely this choice of action would have diffused a potentially volatile situation which ended up inflicting extreme stress upon our family as well as up putting the lives of our two children in danger.
  1. Why did the Armed Response officers fail to identify themselves when they charged our front door weapons drawn?
  1. Why did none of the officers involved, especially the Armed Response Unit officers, try to ascertain whether or not there were any minors in the house that could be put at risk by their actions?
  1. Why did the Armed Response Officers refuse to give any explanation as to the reason for their presence or their threatening and aggressive behaviour when my husband frantically ran to the front door, with his hands in the air, asking what was going on and stating very clearly that there was no threat in our home? Other than one terse question, “Which room is he in?” they, in fact, refused to speak at all. They didn’t even ask my husband to identify himself and given the similarity between the physical description of both Mr ****** and my husband, they could easily have thought that it was in fact Mr ****** who was charging at the front door and the outcome could have been a lot more horrific than it actually was, especially as my 15 year old son was standing, on crutches, right beside his father.
  1. Why did all of the officers completely ignore our repeated pleas for help once we had clearly stated that there was no threat present in our home, but that their suspect, who was, in fact a fully diagnosed psychotic schizophrenic, who had been off his medication for several weeks was currently so inebriated that he absolutely no concept of the dangerous situation he was in at that moment when he tried to stagger out to the door to explain his actions earlier that evening? Mr * is quite a large fella who was so drunk that he had come straight into our living room and passed out and was only awoken by all the panicked shouting and crying when we saw the armed officers running towards our home.
  1. Despite having been fully informed about Mr ******’s physical and mental state and complete current disorientation, the Armed Response Unit officers maintained their aggressive stance and had my husband not managed to intervene and explain the situation briefly to Mr ****** and calm him down, his arrest would have been any more complicated and traumatic than it already was, as the officers remained very aggressive towards him as they took him towards their van.
  1. Why was it that the allegations about the presence of a gun in our home were only explained to us when the four regular uniformed constables entered our home?
  1. Why, if the PSNI and the Armed Response unit officers genuinely believed that there was a gun in our home, was such a half-hearted search of our home undertaken? Only one officer stepped just inside the doorway of my son’s bedroom. He apologised to * for disturbing him and asked if there was a gun in the room, explaining about the statement made by the ****** indicating that ****** had dumped a gun in there. * was quick to point out, as we had, that ****** had never ever been in his room and told them there was no gun. The officer glanced around the room and at the two beds briefly before leaving, seemingly satisfied that there was no gun present. He did not go fully into my son’s bedroom or even make an attempt at a proper search, which seemed disproportionate with the whole fiasco in the front street.
  1. Why were none of the people present in my home that night questioned or asked to give statements about the incident as it had happened that night and why were none of us ever contacted by the investigating officer afterwards. I had to obtain the incident number and the officer’s details myself after attempts to get the information from our community police officer failed to materialise.
  1. Once it was proven that there was no gun either on Mr ******’s person, or in our home and given the *******’s quite specific statements about having seen Mr ******* drop this imaginary gun on our son’s bed, why weren’t the ******’s contacted and questioned about wasting police time and the resources involved in deploying the Armed Response Unit?