Published Friday, 06 April 2012
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An internal investigation has begun and the officers were removed from duty on Thursday following what Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie described as "very serious allegations".
The text messages were uncovered during a separate internal investigation, in which the four officers - who all know each other - were not originally involved.
"It is absolutely unacceptable for officers to engage in racist and sectarian language and far less to exchange that in the form of texts to each other," DCC Gillespie said on Friday.
The PSNI said those suspended are from various areas throughout the organisation and are not senior officers.
"There is no public complaint, there is no member of the public involved at this stage," she added.
DCC Gillespie confirmed that although the investigation is at an early stage, it will look into whether the officers were on duty when the messages were sent.
This is not my proudest day as Deputy Chief Constable...This is the first time we have ever suspended four officers for this behaviour.
Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie
A spokesperson for the PSNI said: "Any officer who fails to abide by the high standards of behaviour expected of all officers as laid out in our Code of Ethics can expect to be rigorously investigated."
Police Board Chair Brian Rea has welcomed the PSNI's robust action following the allegations.
"This Board and the community expect the highest professional and ethical standards from all its police officers and those who fall short must be dealt with robustly.
"The action taken by the PSNI in respect of the allegations made against these four officers is to be welcomed. Misconduct of this nature cannot be tolerated by the PSNI."
Policing board member Gerry Kelly also commended the PSNI for launching the investigation into the allegations.
"Is it disappointing? Yes it is. But the fact that they're being held to account is a story in itself," the Sinn Féin MLA said.
"The fact that the PSNI are holding them to account needs to be welcomed and acknowledged."