THE SENIOR police officer charged with waging the war on drugs has denied DUP claims that the PSNI turns a blind eye to small time dealers.
It follows the eight suspected drug related deaths in just under a month – seven of which were in Belfast, five in the east of the city.
Loyalist paramilitaries are being blamed for peddling the Ecstasy-style green tablets stamped with a ‘Crown’ or ‘Castle’ for the deaths.
Police are still waiting for toxicology reports to see if the eight deaths last month are linked to a lethal ecstasy-type drug sold by dealers with loyalist paramilitary connections.
Health minister Edwin Poots told BBC NI”s Radio Ulster show that he would not be surprised if the PSNI was turning a blind eye to small-time dealers in return for information about the criminals in charge.
However, Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, who is head of the PSNI’s Crime Operations Department, rubbished the Minister’s allegations.
ACC Harris said: “The PSNI works hard to tackle the issue of drugs and any suggestion we protect those dealing in drugs is unfounded.
“We understand the misery drugs can cause to communities, to families, to those who get involved in drugs and we continue to disrupt and arrest those involved in the sale and supply of drugs, bring individuals before the courts and work with communities and partner agencies to reduce the threat of harmful and illegal activity.”
ACC Harris added that in the last year nearly 2,800 people were arrested by the PSNI and held to account for drugs offences.
There were also over 4,400 drug seizures valued at £10.2million.
“Compared to the previous year, 14% more people were charged in relation to drug offences,” he added.
“We also ran a specific operation, Operation Torus, aimed at tackling street-level drug dealing during which we seized suspected drugs estimated to be worth over £1 million and made more than 400 arrests.
“Drugs remain a policing priority but we also need the help of the public – we need people to come forward and tell us if they know anything about illegal drugs being sold or distributed in their local area.”