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Transfer of police powers a positive move, says PSNI chief

By Deborah McAleese

It has been a busy and challenging first six months for Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

He has scrapped the full-time reserve, shifted officers from behind desks back onto the streets, increased cooperation with the Gardai, while at the same time tackling an upsurge in dissident republican violence and dealing with day to day crime on an increasingly tight budget.

In a few weeks he will be delivering policing under full devolution, something a Chief Constable in Northern Ireland has not done for almost four decades.

Writing exclusively for the Belfast Telegraph today, Mr Baggott makes clear that the handing over of policing and justice powers from Westminster and the creation of a new justice department will not affect the job of the PSNI.

He says devolution is a “positive move for policing”, but while the justice department will be a matter for politicians, policing will be a matter for the PSNI and local communities.

“For weeks the debate has continued all around us on the issue of devolved policing and justice powers for Northern Ireland. For the Police Service of Northern Ireland, well, we have been getting on with our job ... I welcome the passing of the vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly last week. It is a positive move for policing. But today and tomorrow, as yesterday, we will be getting on with the job right across Northern Ireland,” he said.

Since his arrival in Northern Ireland Mr Baggott has insisted that he wants to free up desk-bound officers and get them back on the streets. He said he has an additional 373 officers out working to disrupt terrorist activity and crime and that number will soon increase.

“By ensuring we have extra resources in local communities, we can better equip our officers to deliver the policing service people want, to spend more time finding out what really matters and what needs to be addressed,” he said.

Despite the dissident threat, the Chief Constable is determined to push ahead with the normalisation of policing, concentrating on delivering a “personal, professional and protective service to all”.

Mr Baggott is also keen to increase accountability and says he plans to introduce a call-back service for the public to provide feedback on officers.

He said he wants the PSNI to be “the finest police service in the world”, adding: “Maybe a bold statement, but one that I firmly believe we can achieve.”

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