Belfast Telegraph

I do fear for my officers’ lives every day: Baggott

By Claire Weir

Northern Ireland's top police officer has admitted that he wakes up every morning fearing for the safety of his officers.

In a week that has seen a car bomb at Londonderry's Strand Road PSNI station and two booby trap devices found under the cars of a Kilkeel policewoman and a Bangor Army major, Chief Constable Matt Baggott hit out at the increasingly reckless methods of renegade republicans.

Mr Baggott paid tribute to his PSNI colleagues, calling them “the most professional and dedicated police officers in the world”.

He has appealed directly to local people to be the “eyes and ears” of the police to help tackle dissident terrorists.

Following a meeting with Strand Road traders and politicians in Derry in the city's Guildhall, added that he was “deeply proud” of his officers for “saving lives” and hit out at the dissidents.

Speaking to the media alongside Derry mayor Colum Eastwood of the SDLP and Area Commander Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin, Matt Baggott said that the PSNI was doing a “magnificent job” in what had been a “difficult week”.

Thanking the community for their continuing support, the Chief Constable continued: “Please be our eyes and ears, be vigilant on our behalf.

“These are the same people, the same mindsets that ultimately led to the Omagh tragedy.

“These are people who attack kebab shop owners, mothers who have joined the PSNI with young children, they are putting elderly people out of their care homes and terrifying them in the early hours of the morning.

“They have no solution for the future except to go back to the past.”

Admitting a “surge” in dissident activity, he added: “They are getting increasingly reckless. Devices are going off that previously didn't go off.

“I wake up every morning and am concerned about the safety of people in the PSNI.”

However, denying claims that dissidents are “running rings” around the police and that current intelligence-gathering has not been effective, he said that 400 extra police had been put on patrol across Northern Ireland in the last six months and that tens of millions of pounds had been pumped into the policing budget to tackle the threat.

While he admitted budget cuts and trying to police in the midst of a recession had caused problems, the Chief Constable said that the PSNI was “coping” with the dissident threat, and that while that threat remains “severe”, he pointed to the fact that convictions for terrorist offences had risen considerably since he took charge last September.

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