The PSNI has been urged to review its disciplinary process after it emerged that officers accused of misconduct have been escaping punishment by quitting their jobs.
At least 24 officers facing investigation in Northern Ireland were among hundreds across the UK allowed to resign in a two-year period.
Alleged offences included neglect of duty and failing drugs tests.
It has led to claims the PSNI is sending out the wrong message to the public by not punishing officers suspected of misconduct.
SDLP Policing Board member Conall McDevitt said it was crucial that the PSNI’s disciplinary process is seen to be robust.
Said the MLA: “We must always avoid creating a situation whereby public confidence in disciplinary procedures inside a police service could be undermined.”
Some 489 officers across the UK were allowed to resign ahead of disciplinary hearings between 2008 and 2010, the BBC’s Panorama programme found. In the same period, there were 1,915 guilty verdicts for misconduct. In Northern Ireland 101 officers were found guilty of offences including theft, drink driving and possession of drugs.
Mr McDevitt said allowing officers to quit before a hearing risked sending out the wrong message.
He added: “The public must have full confidence that disciplinary procedures will be implemented and that misconduct — particularly serious misconduct — will be fully and thoroughly investigated to the end.” UUP Policing Board member Ross Hussey said any officer suspected of misconduct should face a proper disciplinary hearing.
He said: “Where an officer chooses not to go before such a panel, they are effectively admitting their guilt and rather than face the consequences of being dismissed, are pulling the pin beforehand.”
In more serious cases, officers may still have faced criminal proceedings even after resigning from their job.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy, speaking for the Association of Chief Police Officers, told Panorama that police resignations in the face of misconduct allegations can be in the public interest.
“There is a judgment about, do you want to wait for a long drawn out disciplinary procedure, which you know is likely to end in the officer losing their job, or if that officer is willing to resign, is it not in the public interest again, to get them off the payroll and to avoid the cost and expense of a hearing?” he said.
A PSNI spokesman declined to comment.