A LOCAL mother has called for an explanation in the wake of an extraordinary incident involving the theft of police caps. The incident unfolded in the Upper Springfield area after a police car was left unattended and caps were taken from the unlocked vehicle by local children.
We’ve been told that in their frantic bid to retrieve the stolen items, the three PSNI officers – two male and one female – came upon 10-year-old Stephen Parker who was walking alone in a nearby street. They asked him into their car, saying they were going to bring him home, but instead set off on a tour of the district in search of the caps – with the boy as their guide.
The boy’s mum says the trio drove the confused child around the streets of the Whiterock, asking him to tell them the names and addresses of the kids who carried out the theft.
The incident happened two weeks ago, but Stephen’s mother, Geraldine Lennon, says her son is still shaken by the ordeal.
“The police were in Westrock Grove attending an incident, they had left their car unlocked, unattended and had also left their police uniform hats in the vehicle,” Geraldine explained.
It was at this point local children accessed the unlocked car, lifted the police hats and made off.
“The officers returned to the vehicle to find the hats missing and began pursuing the children,” continued Geraldine. “Around this time my son was walking on Brittons Parade when the police car pulled up. A male officer and a female officer got out and asked Stephen if he knew any of the children who had the hats.
“They took note of Stephen’s name and address before a second male officer got out of the car and said ‘Come on Stephen, we’re bringing you home.’ But they didn’t bring Stephen home, they continued to drive my son through the streets of the Whiterock while they were questioning him on the names and addresses of those involved.
“At one point the two male officers left the car and the female officer drove off with Stephen to Whiterock Crescent. Stephen was then kept in the car for a further 10 minutes until one of the male officers returned, opened the police car door, and told Stephen to get out.”
Geraldine said local children alerted her to the incident and she immediately went looking for her son.
“I drove to the vicinity in which the children had said Stephen was seen. To my alarm Stephen was walking through that street alone. The PSNI did not bring him home as they had indicated and nor had they contacted me to advise me of the incident.
“As a result of the ordeal, Stephen has been left shaken and anxious. He feels socially excluded as a result of taunting by friends and other children in the area. He has been housebound since the incident and no longer accesses social media networks.”
Geraldine said there are questions for the PSNI to answer.
“My son is a 10-year-old boy,” she added. “He has been detained by two grown male officers and a grown female officer adopting tactics which, I believe is fair to say, are used to frighten, intimidate and encourage witnesses to provide information. I think the officers’ actions were unlawful and at a time of growing confidence in community policing have threatened to damage relationships between the PSNI and the local community.”
Sinn Féin Councillor for the area, Stevie Corr, said the three officers in question should be asked to account for their actions.
“This incident represents all that is bad in policing,” he said.
“It is totally unacceptable for this young lad and his family to be put through this ordeal. As far as we are concerned, he has been singled out by the PSNI and we ask that everyone accept he is the victim here.
“We have advised Ms Lennon to formally approach a solicitor for legal advice. Our party is seeking an urgent meeting with the PSNI at a relevant level to discuss the issue and see what action should be taken against these three police officers.”
A spokesperson for the PSNI said: “On the information received, there are no details of an incident of this nature and there are no reports of any police property being stolen in that area at this stage.”