Many police officers uneasy at handling of the past

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A Trustee of the RUC George Cross Foundation has told an audience in Londonderry that former and current serving police officers have serious misgivings about how the legacy of the Troubles is being dealt with.

Roger McCallum, an ex-police officer who served for 27 years with the RUC and the PSNI, said that, in his experience, many former colleagues are unsettled by issues such as the erosion of the rule of law and attempts to establish equivalency between former members of republican and loyalist paramilitary organisations and former members of the security forces.

The Portrush native told a symposium convened to address the legacy of the Troubles in Londonderry: “Colleagues who serve with me in the RUC George Cross, many of whom continue to serve with the PSNI, have understandable concerns about how legacy issues can be handled.

“There are concerns about the perceived erosion of the rule of law, rewriting of history, the issue of equivalency, the status of the RUC George Cross and the human rights of police officers and indeed their families.

“They are generally, in my experience, unwilling to engage with others.”

The retired RUC man referred to a character from Jonathan Burgess’ ‘Crows on the Wire,’ a drama exploring the transition of the RUC to the PSNI in November 2001, which gave its name to the ‘Crows on the Wire: Narratives of the Unheard’ symposium.

“Jack is the, sort of, older police officer in the play,” he said. “I suppose he represents, in many ways, partly what I would have been thinking in the years 2000, 2001, when the transition was made.”

He went on to state: “So, I think, a lot of RUC police officers, their narratives, I’m going back to the title, the ‘Narratives of the Unheard,’ they were very unwilling to engage for a number of reasons, including some of those I have mentioned, but work is progressing, work is getting a little bit better there.”

Speaking more broadly about dealing with the past, Mr McCallum said he had noticed how it’s usually the wrongs of the other side, that we want examined.

“Generally, it’s only the other side’s past that we want to place forensically under the microscope because, of course, our side were the good guys, but as most of us now know, it was a tad more complicated than that.

“In my opinion we need to have a degree of empathy and to show leadership if we are to move forward.”