THE PSNI have been accused of ‘overkill’ in relation to a series of dissident raids across County Tyrone at the weekend.
Six men and one woman were arrested after police swooped on homes across Cookstown and areas of Omagh and County Antrim on Saturday.
One woman from the Pomeroy area is still being detained along with three men after police were granted five extra days to question them in relation to dissident republican activity.
But local representatives have called the searches, in which cars and belongings were seized, ‘overkill’ and accused the PSNI of wasting resources.
On Monday an emergency meeting was held between senior PSNI commanders and Sinn Fein after families of those arrested raised ‘serious concerns’ about the searches.
Speaking after the meeting, councillor Sean Clarke, Sinn Fein Chairman of Cookstown District Council told the MAIL: “In the case of the Greencastle operation, I drew attention to the fact that the arrest and search started at 4am in the morning when children and other family member were sound asleep. I also raised concern that, although women and children were in the house, no female officers were present. I felt that this was inappropriate,” said Councillor Clarke.
“Additionally, I questioned the sheer scale of the operation in Greencastle and in Dunamore on Saturday afternoon. There were dozens of personnel deployed in minibuses, jeeps and cars.
“From a community perspective, it appeared like complete overkill and certainly not a good use of resources.”
“This huge deployment was in stark contrast to the PSNI’s failure to block a road and divert traffic the previous weekend when a suspicious object was discovered in the area.
Councillor Clarke’s comments were echoed by Carrickmore Sinn Fein representative Ann Marie Fitzgerald.
“In the Carrickmore operation, PSNI officers accompanied by sniffer dogs searched a family home, seized cars and took away personal belongings,” she said.
“This has created a huge inconvenience for the young family and we have been pressing the PSNI to get these items, and those seized in the other searches, returned as soon as possible.”
Councillor Clarke says the manner in which the seraches were carried out had not only a negative impact on the family of those involved, but also the wider community.
Councillor Clarke concluded: “We feel it is imperative that the PSNI are held accountable for every action that they take.
“In this case, we have many concerns about how their actions have negatively impacted upon the lives of the people affected, and on the wider community.
“As a party, we will continue to vigorously pursue our policy of critical engagement with the PSNI. It is through this approach that local people can help us shape a policing service that truly meets the needs of the community.”
A total of seven arrests were made by police in searches across Cookstown, Omagh, Strabane and Toome,
A 45 year-old man from the Kildress area was one of those arrested but was released unconditionally on Sunday, along with two other males, who were detained in Strabane.
On Monday police were granted a further five days to question the local woman and three other men on suspicion of dissident republican activity.
This is the second time in as many months the PSNI has focused it’s dissident investigations on the Cookstown area.