Paramilitary threats forced 52 PSNI officers to move home
The effects on officers and their families can be psychological and also financial
The number of PSNI officers forced from their homes this year is three. Photograph: Trevor McBride
In the past seven years 52 PSNI officers were forced from their homes due to threats, according to Mark Lindsay, chairman of the representative body for the officers, the Police Federation.
Forty officers had to leave home between 2010 and 2015, an average of eight each year, while nine had to find new accommodation last year.
The number forced from their homes this year is three.
“It tends to happen in peaks and troughs,” explains Mr Lindsay.
He says that officers who have to leave their homes for their safety have to carry a heavy burden. “Police officers are trained to deal with stressful situations and they can cope with being forced from their homes, but often they can’t cope with the fact that their families can’t cope.”
PSNI members, he adds, must be particularly “savvy” to preserve secrecy about their occupations. Some family and close friends can know, but not too many people.
For instance, it could be dangerous to tell young children about what their daddies and mammies do because they could so easily and innocently give the game away, he explains.
Mr Lindsay joined the RUC in 1987 and served in places such as Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Cookstown, Newtownabbey and Ballymena.
One of the police drills is to check under cars for booby-trap bombs. “I always told the children I was looking for cats until one day my then 12-year-old-son said, ‘You’re not looking for cats, are you? You’re looking for bombs’.”
Another young child asked, “If you are a fireman why are you always driving into police stations.”
Personal security is a feature of life which officers have to manage. But when dissident paramilitaries, as is overwhelmingly the reason in current cases, cause families to have to move, the effects can be psychological and also financial.
The costs of removal van and of renting a new property will be met by the British state. Rent cover usually lasts for about six months, after which officers normally would be expected to have found new homes, says Mr Lindsay.
But he points out how, particularly during the financial crash period from 2008 to 2015, many officers found themselves with their homes in negative equity. He says that some officers had to sell properties for up to £80,000 less than they bought them for, and that they were lumbered with this extra burden – the state does not cover that loss.
“They just had to suck it up,” explains Mr Lindsay. “I think it is grossly unfair that people who put their lives on the line to protect society and then through no fault of their own are put out of their homes should have to suffer financial loss as well.”