Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Matt Baggott retirement: I will not be bidding him goodbye but rather good riddance

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott

Matt Baggott has announced he will not be renewing his contract and will depart the PSNI later this year. The reaction to the announcement from the usual suspects was predictable, one commentator even went so far as to say ‘we’ll never see his like again’- I hope that prediction is correct.

We saw the impotence of the Chief Constable’s approach to policing laid bare when Irish republicans took to the streets of Belfast to ‘celebrate’ the death of Baroness Thatcher.

The PSNI took to the streets too, yet despite extensive video evidence of lawlessness, not a single arrest was made. We witnessed similar impotence, when convicted terrorist Gerry Kelly interfered with a police operation last year – and received nothing more than a rap on the knuckles.

The Chief Constable would obviously disagree with my assessment. He might cite, as a success, the many pictures issued by police of people engaging in such audacious activity as standing on a pavement and label it a success.

He might similarly describe the dozens of convictions secured at the time of the flag protests as a success; albeit he’d probably fail to point out that many could have been avoided with a simple ‘catch yourself on’.

Irrespective of what the Chief Constable may claim, his legacy will remain one of failure. He proved himself incapable of providing the impartial, professional, protective and personal policing Northern Ireland craves; instead, he gave us a poorly performed cover version.

Under his ‘leadership’, he managed to alienate a significant number of law-abiding people, whilst failing to address the racketeering and gangsters, which continues unabated. I see this daily in the criminality, which continues unchecked especially in border areas. And I see it everytime someone asks me for Crimestoppers’ number, as they do not wish to involve police directly.

One of my abiding memories of Mr Baggott will be his refusal to meet with UKIP leader Nigel Farage when he was in Belfast last July but was out-and-about with Ross Kemp making a television documentary.

It is perhaps revealing that Mr Baggott would put celebrity before meeting with the leader of the fourth biggest political party in the UK and members of local communities that felt under threat at that time.

So, I will not be throwing any bouquets to the the Chief Constable  and when he moves on later this year, I will not be bidding him goodbye but rather good riddance.