by STACEY HEANEY
MEMBERS of Lisburn's District Policing Partnership have unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in the District PSNI Commander, Chief Superintendent Henry Irvine and have withdrawn co-operation with him after claiming he had shown "contempt" to the committee in his handling of the night time closure of Lisburn Police Station.
The proposal by Councillor Trevor Lunn received backing from the political and independent members of the Partnership after they said they were not consulted prior to Chief Superintendent Irvine's announcement that from April I, Lisburn Station is to be closed to the public from IIpm to Barn.
The DPP is now seeking an urgent meeting with the Northern Ireland Policing Board to convey their 'deep dissatisfaction' with the way the announcement was handled. They are also writing to the Chief Constable.
Speaking after the DPP's private meeting on Tuesday, Mr Lunn said: The manner of the District Commander's announcement to the press, before consulting the DPP on the night-time closure of Lisburn Station. once again showed his contempt for the DPP and makes a nonsense of any pretence of 'partnership.
Mr Lunn said the DPP had made clear their support for the PSNJ locally and nationally, but could not continue to do a partnership job with a Senior Officer when they did not believe they were being allowed to fulfil the role for which the DPP was created.
The new Chairman of Lisburn DPP, Councillor Arder Carson, said he had learned of the decision through the media.
"The core business of Lisburn DPP is about building confidence within the community and consulting local people about policing and how it is delivered' he said. "We have been totally disregarded in this instance and relations have been difficult over the years in similar-type situations. I learned of the decision through the media before I had received official notification as Chairman of the Lisburn DPP. This is not appropriate or acceptable. "Furthermore, the former DPP Chairman, Alderman Jim Dillon, was given assurances that no decision would be taken' regarding closure changes to the station without consultation. This has not happened.
"There was no discussion with the Partnership to identify the rationale of the decision or all the factors surrounding it in order that it could make an informed decision. These are key areas needed to be communicated and discussed before h public announcement was made."
The Partnership emphasised their problem was not with local officers who are responsible for delivering a policing service in Lisburn on a day-to-day basis. They will now seek to co-operate with the other DPPs in 'D District', where opening hours have also been cut. These include Antrim, Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus.
Lagan Valley MLA Alderman Edwin Poots has already been in contact with Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, and said the situation had been "handled inappropriately."
"I have raised the issue with him, letting him know it would have been only right and fair to have extensive consultation beforehand, however, that wasn't the case and J made it clear that isn't acceptable" he said.
"Alistair Finlay (Assistant Chief Constable) wrote a letter last year about the closure of Hillsborough Station and in his letter he indicated that wouldn't be happening without consultation. Clearly this is not an operational decision and I made it clear that it has been handled inappropriately. This has damaged relationships with the DPP, the Council and the public and I understand a number of MPs representing South Antrim, East Antrim and Lagan Valley will be meeting him on this issue."
The Mayor of Lisburn, Councillor Allan Ewart added: "I am really taken aback by this announcement as Chief Superintendent Henry Irvine met with the former Chairman of Lisburn DPP in November last year to discuss Hillsborough police station and informed him at that meeting that there were no plans to close Lisburn station at night without consultation."
Councillor Paul Givan said the decision had come as a 'bolt from blue'.
"Lisburn Police Station is the only station within the Council area that is open 24 hours a day" he said. "The Police have already closed Dromara despite the views of local people and the police stations in Hillsborough, Moira and Dunmurry all have limited opening hours leaving Lisburn serving a population of over I00,000 people on a 24 hour basis.
"The manner in which this decision has been taken, without any consultation, has caused huge frustration for members of the district police partnership. In the absence of any hard evidence to back up this decision we cannot support the closure of Lisburn Police Station during these hours to the public and we will be urging the PSNI to reverse this decision." Alderman Cecil Calvert called for CS Irvine to consider his position.
In response, a Police spokesperson called on "everyone in the community, including the local DPP, to support the decision to revise the opening hours of Lisburn Police Station's Enquiry Office.
"This will not mean any reduction in service, in fact, we firmly believe the changes will provide a better and enhanced policing service to all the people in Lisburn" they said.
"There are constant calls for more Police on the streets — this is one way we propose to deliver this. It will mean we can use our resources in a much better way to respond to the burglaries, anti-social behaviour and other crimes that the community, politicians, DPP members and other key stakeholders tell us they want us to tackle.
"Commander for D District - Chief Supt Irvine met with DPP Chairs and managers from Lisburn, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Antrim back in September 2009 to brief them on a number of proposals, including the reduction in station opening hours. At the meeting the District Commander presented figures which showed few people visited the enquiry offices between the hours of I1pm and 8am, as well as other providing other background information on the proposals.
"A review carried out showed that Lisburn Police Station receives on average just over two callers a night, this mainly being due to the custody suite being located there which would naturally generate a significant number of solicitors attending the station during night-time hours. Under the new arrangements solicitors attending the station will now be managed by the custody suite.
"A decision was then taken in the interests of the whole community to close the enquiry office to the public between IIpm and 8am This is a period of time when there is very little demand from the public and the changes now allow Police to free up valuable resources. The District Commander then wrote to all four DPP chairs last week to inform of the changes and to explain the context of why the decisions were made.
"In the letters, C/Supt Irvine offered the DPP Chairs the opportunity to discuss any queries with the Area Commanders for Antrim, Carrickfergus, Lisburn and Newtownabbey."