Welcome to Northern Ireland Chief Constable Matt Baggott!!
Matt Baggott, the new Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland finally gets to try out his new desk today and will probably take a moment to reflect on the size of the task that awaits him.
The term ‘baptism of fire’ is perhaps not much of an exaggeration when one thinks of the challenges facing policing and justice in Northern Ireland. As the Chief Constable is sworn in, his officers are stopping and searching vehicles on every major arterial route into Belfast in response to intelligence of a dissident Republican ‘spectacular’ – a terrorist bombing by armed paramilitaries who are violently opposed to the police and would dearly love to ensure that the introduction of the new Chief Constable is remembered for all the wrong reasons.
As Matt Baggott meets the political representatives for Northern Ireland he will know that structural sectarianism continues to prevent effective devolved government generally, and in particular, the proposed devolution of policing and justice from Westminster. The Chief Constable will also be aware that the Police Service of Northern Ireland will not be immune from the major cuts in public finances experienced across the UK.
Far from discouraged, Chief Constable Baggott has marked his first day by stating his determination to provide a ‘personal’ policing’ service to every citizen of Northern Ireland. Moreover, he has made it clear that the devolution of policing and justice powers is a vital requirement to providing a police service that is fair, effective and accountable. As the Chief Constable explains: "The most important policing decisions are best made by the local people who are affected by them".
Matt Baggott’s exemplary record as Chief Constable of Leicestershire Constabulary suggests he is more than qualified to implement fair and effective community policing in Northern Ireland while keeping to a tight budget. Encouragement can also be taken from the knowledge that he is the first Chief Constable to be selected from a unanimous agreement of all the political parties.
I would therefore like to call on everyone to join me in welcoming Matt Baggott to his new post and wish him success in his plans for the future of policing in Northern Ireland.
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