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Editor's Viewpoint: A police chief not afraid to innovate

Published 01/12/2009

The new Chief Constable Matt Baggott is learning fast about the intricacies of policing in Northern Ireland. In his first few weeks in the hot-seat he faced a tricky, inherited problem - the phasing out of the police reserve.

It was an issue that produced a lot of sabre-rattling from some politicians and from the Police Federation, but it now appears he has won over the critics. He says all the political parties agree with his course of action and legal action by the Federation challenging the decision has been withdrawn. To have achieved that result with the minimum of fuss is no mean feat and it demonstrates that the new Chief Constable is a skilled negotiator.

His exclusive interview in today's newspaper shows that he is also prepared to think outside the box when it comes to policing. Ruling out bringing back the Army to help quell any disorder, he has suggested an innovative approach instead. He says he would call on police forces in England, Wales or even the Republic, if necessary, to help in investigations and wants to see the PSNI and Garda working even more closely, particularly along the border, which he describes as merely an artificial line when it comes to policing.

As one would expect, he is upbeat about the ability of the PSNI to meet its challenges, including the threat from dissident republicans. He also recognises the imperative to ensure that young Catholics continue to be recruited to the force making it truly representative of the community it serves and also drawing support from the widest possible political base.

Yet he must be aware that there is some public unease at the response of police to the rising levels of ordinary crime and public disorder, such as occurred in Portadown at the weekend. There is an impression that criminals are escaping justice too easily and Mr Baggott must move swiftly to dispel that notion. He has begun well but much remains to be done.

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