Hamilton named new NI police chief
A Co Down-born police commander has seen off competition from senior officers in London and Dublin to be named the Police Service of Northern Ireland's new Chief Constable.
Current PSNI Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton will take over from outgoing chief Matt Baggott when he retires in September, the NI Policing Board announced.
Mr Hamilton was vying with Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick and Garda Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne for the high- profile £195,000-a-year job.
The father-of-four from Bangor was the only officer in the PSNI eligible to apply for the post after the Policing Board, which is the PSNI's oversight body, opted to retain the controversial criterion which required all candidates to have served at senior command level outside Northern Ireland.
He served as assistant chief constable in Strathclyde from 2009 to 2011 and also worked in England for three years on a range of police training and organisational development projects
Mr Hamilton first joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1985 and steadily worked his way through the ranks, including detective superintendent, detective chief inspector and district commander.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in politics and economics and a Masters in business administration. He is a member of the Institute of Directors and the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Leadership Association.
As Assistant Chief Constable to Mr Baggott, he is currently responsible for rural policing in Northern Ireland - an area which covers approximately 4,500 square miles (11,700 sq km) and a population of approximately 900,000.
A nine-member Policing Board appointment panel interviewed all three candidates throughout today.
The choice of Mr Hamilton was approved by Stormont Justice Minister David Ford.
Policing Board chair Anne Connolly said: "I am pleased to announce that the Policing Board has appointed ACC George Hamilton as the new PSNI Chief Constable. The position has been accepted and the formal date of appointment will be confirmed in the next number of days.
"ACC Hamilton brings wide-ranging experience to this important job and has the necessary skills to lead the PSNI forward. As a Board, we are looking forward to working closely with the new Chief Constable in dealing with the issues facing policing and agreeing a programme of work that supports community confidence in policing."
Ms Connolly also thanked the unsuccessful candidates.
"The Board was very impressed with the calibre of candidates who applied for the Chief Constable job. They had a vast amount of policing expertise and I would like to thank each of them for their interest," she said.
Mr Baggott is stepping down in the autumn after five years in the role.
There is currently a period of significant flux at the top command levels of the PSNI. At the end of March, Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie retired.
Mr Hamilton faces a stacked in-tray when he takes over the reins from Mr Baggott.
The PSNI is currently trying to balance a dwindling budget with its ongoing fight against dissident republican terrorism.
Its resources are also being stretched trying to fulfil its obligations to both investigate and provide information to the Coroners Service in regard to historic Troubles-related cases.
Also, last year almost 850 officers were injured in rioting linked to disputes over flags and parades.
With Northern Ireland's politicians having failed to strike any deal to resolve the issues, the spectre of a recurrence of disorder this summer again looms large.
Mr Ford is currently in New York on Stormont business and was contacted by board members via a conference call late this afternoon to discuss the appointment.
"Congratulations to George on his appointment as Chief Constable," he said.
"The position of Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland is one of the most challenging policing roles on these islands. George will bring a wealth of leadership experience to the PSNI to shape policing in Northern Ireland over the rest of the decade.
"I wish to pay tribute to Matt Baggott for his leadership in delivering personal, professional and protective policing to our community, sometimes in the face of extreme adversity.
"I look forward to working with George and his team to continue to build a safer Northern Ireland with a police service that has the confidence of the entire community."
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said: " I am delighted that the Policing Board has come to a decision on the appointment of George Hamilton as the new Chief Constable of the PSNI.
"I wish George all the very best as he takes up this important position and builds on the important work carried out by the current Chief Constable, Matt Baggott.
"The PSNI has a great deal to be proud of. Like all police forces it must deliver the best policing service possible at a time of unprecedented pressure on public finances. But the PSNI and its officers also face sensitivities, dangers and public order situations that make the challenge unique in the UK.
"This is a time for strong leadership and I am confident that George Hamilton will provide this.
"As a Government, we remain committed to ensuring that the Chief Constable has the support he needs to keep the community safe. The significant extra funding of £231 million that this Government will provide between 2011 and 2016 is playing a vital role in helping the PSNI to tackle the terrorist threat."
The appointment of a former RUC officer with the support of Sinn Fein is politically significant.
DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness both welcomed the selection of Mr Hamilton.
Mr Robinson said: "I congratulate George Hamilton on his appointment as the new Chief Constable for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
"There is no doubt that the post of Chief Constable is a very challenging one. I am confident George will use his considerable experience gained over many years to deal with policing issues and help shape the future of policing in Northern Ireland.
"I pay tribute to outgoing Chief Constable Matt Baggott and thank him for the valuable contribution he has made to policing for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland."
Mr McGuinness said: "I congratulate George Hamilton on his appointment as Chief Constable of the PSNI. I wish him every success in his efforts to ensure the fair and democratic implementation of policing in the north of Ireland.
"Matt Baggott has led the PSNI through a period of considerable change over recent years and I thank him for his efforts and wish him every success in the future."