Chief Constable Matt Baggott has defended the PSNI’s response to terrorist attacks — while conceding that the recent bomb attack in Newtownhamilton was “a regrettable exception”.
In a letter to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Baggott said he was “relentlessly” putting more officers on the ground, adding that tens of millions of pounds have been secured and invested into tackling the heightened security threat.
Addressing criticism of the PSNI response in Newtownhamilton, he said: “We are providing where possible a quick and effective response to terrorist attacks.
“Newtownhamilton was a regrettable exception. But it was an exception caused by an obligation to assess the risks to everyone.
“I understand people’s concern that officers should have responded sooner. But my colleagues need to assess the risk to all concerned ... before responding.
“There was a real possibility that more people could have been injured or even killed if police had rushed into a waiting trap. Our response in Newtownhamilton was not dictated by a lack of officer numbers, but by the necessity to make careful judgments about safety.”
Mr Baggott hit out at claims his recent visit to Crossmaglen was a “stunt” and said it was sensible to consider retaining the remaining full-time Reserve officers for nine months.
He concluded: “In the midst of all these challenges we have continued to get on with the job. Monthly crime levels in December, January and February were the lowest for 12 years. We have increased our detection rate and reduced crime and anti-social behaviour. These are achievements that should not be undervalued.”