Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 25 January 2015

Editor's Viewpoint: Baggott PSNI plans are hostage to fortune

There has been a sadly predictable response to the Chief Constable's 10 commitments to better policing, with descriptions ranging from 'pie in the sky' to 'gimmick'.

Certainly Mr Baggott has set his force challenging targets, especially at a time when the PSNI's budget is under pressure, but it would be wrong to dismiss his ideas out of hand.

What the commitments seek to achieve is to create a greater harmony between the PSNI and the rest of society. Many of his 10 points - such as prompt response to 999 calls and liaison between officers and their local communities - are what would be normal practice for any police force elsewhere in the UK or Ireland. The problem in Northern Ireland - with its legacy of violence and disaffection of one section of the community with the former RUC - was that we have little experience of normal policing.

Even now the threat of dissident terrorism - which recent events have tragically shown is not an idle threat - inevitably hampers normal community policing.

What Mr Baggott is attempting to do is set the ground rules for everyday interaction between his officers and the people they serve.

In that respect he is to be commended for trying to enhance the reputation of his force and to further build support across the entire community.

It is now up to his commanders on the ground to ensure that the commitments are not just pledges on shiny new leaflets, but are implemented in all areas of the province.

There will be plenty of critics waiting for the times when the police fall down on any of their pledges. Occasional failure is inevitable, and forgivable, but Mr Baggott's idea will backfire if the infrequent lapses become more commonplace.

Then he will have shaped a rod for his own back and will deserve any criticism which comes his way.

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