Police Service of Northern Ireland names new chief constable
Simon Byrne previously led Cheshire Police.
Simon Byrne has been appointed the next chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Mr Byrne, 56, led Cheshire Police until 2017 and has more than three decades of policing experience.
He will lead a force under severe threat from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process and one which is preparing for the impact of Brexit, if any, on the Irish border.
George Hamilton steps down as PSNI chief next month.
Northern Ireland’s Policing Board chairwoman Anne Connolly said: “Mr Byrne brings a wealth of strategic and operational policing experience to the role, he has 36 years of policing experience, 21 years as a chief officer and almost eight as a chief constable serving the Metropolitan Police, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire.
“We are looking forward to working with him in further developing the PSNI as a highly professional and community-focused organisation.”
The appointment was unanimously agreed by a selection panel from the board.
Mr Byrne was chief of Cheshire Police from 2014-2017.
He was suspended over unfounded allegations of bullying but later cleared of 74 misconduct claims.
Ms Connolly said: “Mr Byrne alerted the board to the fact that he had been subject to, as it turned out unfounded, allegations.
“He has been totally exonerated and the last time I looked, that meant the person was innocent.
“So the board have absolutely no problem in appointing him.
“His skill and experience and his display of the competencies at interview were exceptional and we are delighted to have him on board.”
The PSNI has been forced to make a series of budget savings over recent years while maintaining community policing, targeting contemporary terrorism and investigating killings during the conflict.
Rank and file police argue the service needs more officers to combat the serious threat posed by renegade paramilitaries more than 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed.
Mr Byrne was deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police from 2009 to 2011 and assistant commissioner for territorial policing in the Metropolitan Police from 2011 to 2014.
He began his career as a Met constable in 1982 and became an assistant chief constable at Merseyside in 2006.
The board scrutinises the PSNI and the selection panel included politicians from the DUP and Sinn Fein among others.
Ms Connolly said the appointment comprised a rigorous selection process based on merit, fairness, openness and transparency.
She said independent scrutiny was incorporated at all stages of the competition to provide added assurances.
Interviews were held on Thursday and Friday. Four men were interviewed for the £207,000-a-year job.
Congratulations to Simon Byrne on his selection as next Chief Constable of @PSNI. It is a huge honour to lead the officers and staff of this great organisation. I wish Simon every success in his new role. @NIPolicingBoard— Sir George Hamilton (@SirGHamilton) May 24, 2019
Mr Hamilton was among the first to congratulate the successful candidate.
He said: “It is a huge honour to lead the officers and staff of this great organisation. I wish Simon every success in his new role.”
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents rank and file officers, said Mr Byrne faces a series of significant challenges, including the legacy of the violent conflict, how the organisation is resourced and the ongoing severe dissident threat.
Chairman Mark Lindsay said: “Mr Byrne will have to be across the range of issues that will fill his in-tray from day one.
“He has considerable operational experience and I wish him well in this new and very demanding role.”
DUP board member Mervyn Storey said: “The real work commences now as we seek to improve policing and tackle those issues which need to be addressed so our communities feel safe in their homes and proud of their police force.”
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said: “Action is required to rebuild and redevelop public confidence in policing.
“Sinn Fein urges the incoming chief constable to commit to policing with the community as the core principle and basis for progressing modern policing.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said: “PSNI continues to deal with many difficult issues on a daily basis and as an organisation makes a vital contribution to the stability of Northern Ireland.
“Simon brings significant strategic and operational experience to this role at a crucial time. I look forward to working with him and his senior team.”