Justice Minister, David Ford is in a bit of a pickle this month as his plans to change the criteria for appointing a new chief constable came under a withering fire of (metaphorical) bricks and bottles in a verbal riot against his proposal.
Latest to join in the barrage is the NI Policing Board, who formally rejected the changes which would have meant a relaxation of the rule requiring candidates to have served for two years at assistant chief constable rank outside Northern Ireland.
With the Justice Minister’s appointment criteria unlikely to be used by the Policing Board, I thought I would come up with my own criteria for a new PSNI chief constable.
First, they should be able to wear both the neat white shirt and riot gear. In fact I would require them to wear riot gear two days a week prior to the interview to show that they can empathise with officers caught in the middle of our warring tribal numpties.
Next, they should be able to demonstrate an understanding of our political structures. (I may scrap that one, because nobody really understands them!)
They should also have two years’ experience attending our political parties’ annual conferences, mainly because if we have to do it, so should they.
Candidates must also be expected to answer interminable questions about the police service’s response to every child that falls off their bike.
Desirable experience should include candidates demonstrating how they have handled radio phone-in shows; how they have answered callers’ increasingly bizarre points and gasconading of the presenter without drawing a firearm and calling in the tactical support group.
They must also demonstrate that they can be nice to the police federation, representing the rank and file, because they’re going to be at your door regularly.
It is an essential criteria that candidates will show how they can attend more dinners and events than most humans can endure without developing a weight problem.
Finally, candidates must demonstrate how they will plead, beg and borrow additional resources locally and from Whitehall for new toys, like unmanned aerial drones and fancy new paint on the police land rovers.
There – that’s that sorted. Everyone can calm down now and get on with arguing about other issues like parading, the past and the ever constant ‘fleg’ row....oh that’s one last criteria...any new PSNI chief constable should be required by law to start every conversation with “Bout ye!” and always say “fleg” and never “flag”; and they should conclude every press conference with “hanx!” and never “thank you!”. Even English candidates should be required to do this.