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Editor's Viewpoint: Hamilton successor has a big task ahead as PSNI chief



George Hamilton

George Hamilton

George Hamilton

Whoever takes over the role of Chief Constable when George Hamilton steps down will face a number of serious problems, some structural and others influenced by events in the wider community.

Of immediate concern, as former Deputy Chief Constable Alan McQuillan points out in our report today, is how the political impasse at Stormont has impacted on the PSNI. Of the nine top roles within the force, five are filled by officers 'acting up' ie: performing the role but not confirmed in it.

That, of course, introduces uncertainty into the ranks and it would be no surprise if some of those officers were to look elsewhere for greater security in their roles.

Then there is the ongoing problem of resources. The PSNI has been operating under unprecedented budgetary restraint at a time when pressures on it have been mounting. There are concerns over what will happen if, and when, Brexit becomes a reality, especially if it results in a tightening of border security.

And dissident republicans, as shown by their recent car bomb attack in the centre of Londonderry, are constantly seeking to ratchet up tension in the commu nity. While they do not have the resources or number of members to carry out a sustained terrorist campaign, they are capable of sporadic and deadly attacks.

All this makes the job of successor to George Hamilton less appealing than normally would be expected. Management of policing is not unlike management of business; both detest uncertainty, always seeking to plan ahead and forestall potential problems.

Policing in Northern Ireland, even in these more peaceful times, is still among the most challenging anywhere in Europe. Not only does the force have to contend with legacy issues, but its day-to-day work continues against a backdrop of reduced personnel and finances.

Quite sensibly, a previous requirement that applicants for the Chief Constable's post needed experience in other forces has been downgraded to a desirable qualification.

Given the unique challenges of policing in a still divided community, experience gained on the ground here is invaluable and it would be nonsensical to rule out from applying those senior officers who have spent decades in both the PSNI and the RUC.

What they need now is a fully functioning Policing Board and Executive, to ensure that policing is given the resources it needs for the job in hand.

Belfast Telegraph