Emma Bond has brought a sex discrimination case against the PSNI, claimed she was moved as she was a woman.
Simon Byrne told an employment tribunal the decision to move Ms Bond to another role had been “a vote of confidence”.
The case arises from an investigation into officers working from home for a short period during the pandemic.
Ms Bond alleges she had expressed concerns about working practices during this period and was subsequently discriminated against.
At the time, she was a chief superintendent and serving as the first woman commander of the Derry City and Strabane policing district.
The tribunal, sitting in Belfast, had previously heard Ms Bond believed some officers were potentially guilty of gross misconduct or criminal behaviour when they did not report for duty – they believed they were allowed to be on stand-by from home.
After confronting officers and delivering “a rollicking”, she herself became the subject of complaints.
One resulted in her being served with a notice for potential misconduct, but it was later withdrawn.
Several months later, PSNI commanders made a decision to relocate her to its training college in Belfast.
Mr Byrne told the tribunal today that the decision to relocate Ms Bond to the police college was “not a reflection of no confidence”, but rather a vote of confidence and aimed at helping to support her professional development.
He said it had been his vision to have someone like Ms Bond help transform the college from what it was to something that was far more ambitious.
However, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd also told the tribunal there was merit to Ms Bond remaining in Derry, such as continuity of command.
He gave this perspective during a meeting of senior police around the movement of several officers, including Ms Bond.
“As a matter of policy I don’t like commanders to move unnecessarily,” he said, raising the matter of having established teams.
“I had some concerns that one of my senior commanders would be moved whilst under investigation, whilst that wasn’t the driver for the decision, I did raise it as the possible perception of others.
“I also accept that routinely decisions get made that aren’t in line with things I have proposed. It’s an unpredictable process at best.”
Mr Todd also told the tribunal that he does not believe Ms Bond’s reputation was tainted by the disciplinary notice.
He said it was “awkward” to operate in those circumstances but added: “It’s the nature of senior positions to find yourself in that space from time to time.”
Earlier in the tribunal, the chief constable had suggested the “strain of travel” to work in Derry from County Down had been a factor in the decision to move Ms Bond.At the hearing on Monday, he made clear his comments about “stress and travel” were not reflective of any concerns about Ms Bond’s “mental condition or capacity to make decisions”.
Ms Bond is now an assistant chief constable at Police Scotland.
Separately, the chief constable revealed that when he joined the PSNI in 2019, he had concerns about the seniority of those working in the Derry City and Strabane district.
“My recollection was having arrived into the organisation, I formed an opinion that the level of command in that part of the country wasn’t sufficiently senior to deal with the challenges, threats and complexity,” he told the tribunal.
The hearing continues.Tags: