Chief Constable Matt Baggott to retire later this year & not extend his contract

Chief Constable Matt Baggott has announced that he will retire and not seek an extension to his contract. UTV quote from his email to PSNI colleagues:

PSNI Chief Constable Matt BaggottI wanted to let you know that I have notified the Policing Board this morning of my intention to retire from the PSNI later this year. As such I will not be seeking an extension to my contract which ends in September 2014. I felt it important that you should hear about this first from me.

My time as Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has been the greatest privilege of my policing service. I am deeply proud to have had the opportunity to work alongside the most courageous, committed and professional people in the world. You have made enormous progress and I am deeply grateful for your constant support and encouragement.

In my remaining months my priorities will be to ensure the PSNI has the resources to deal effectively with the many challenges ahead and that our very personal, professional and protective service goes from strength to strength.

Just before Christmas, Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie announced her retirement. She will leave the PSNI on 31 March after 32 years service. Other senior officers have been gone for promotion on other UK forces (for example like ACC Dave Jones who became Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police).

When I interviewed the Chief Constable last April he (wisely) dodged my question on whether he’d like to stay longer in his PSNI post if the Policing Board invited him to stay.

[Baggott] I think that’s far too early to judge. I’ll shortly have done four years here. It’s been four years of immense challenge, from the paramilitaries through to dealing with the past and all that legacy, through to improving people’s lives and dealing with a high degree of public expectation. I’m deeply proud of my colleagues because in all those areas we’ve been delivering. Doing it in a quiet way and a measured way and in a way that – basically in spite of the politics – keeps going on. And I think there is a growing political confidence in policing despite the events of the last three months. Sometimes you take a step back to go two steps forward and maybe sometimes this has to happen for a new political consensus to be reached …

We have the next phase of this to go. The three Ps, Personal policing, Professional policing, and being Protective, apply across the whole gambit of policing. I’m already looking four years ahead in terms of where the PSNI needs to be. My job as Chief is to set a very clear direction and look ahead and to shape the organisation to meet the challenges of the future. It is to have excellent governance and develop a really effective team. I’ve got a brilliant team here. I’ve really got a brilliant team.

The Policing Board unanimously selected him as Chief Constable back in August 2009.

[Baggott] The two major priorities the board set out was firstly to take forward the whole policing with the community ethos, and secondly to do that within a budget that was rapidly diminishing. So the whole concept of delivering progressive change but at the same time also producing value for money.

The security situation in Northern Ireland has deteriorated since the halcyon more hopeful days of 2009. The Policing Board will need to be clear both on the balance of its priorities and the style of leadership they desire when they make their next appointment.

  • Over the past four and half years, nationalists and loyalists/unionists have condemned PSNI actions and questioned Matt Baggott’s leadership. His interventions calling for politicians to show leadership and remarking that policing is “a political football” have not always been appreciated. He spoke at the PUP conference in 2012 and took questions from the audience.
  • The policing of riots and protests – and the follow-up investigations passing files to the PPS – has unsurprisingly been controversial.
  • While there has been heavy investment in new equipment and protective clothing, police officers have regularly acted as a buffer between warring factions, attracting hundreds of injuries over the years: a billiard ball sits in the Chief Constable’s room, presented to him by a front line officer.
  • Officers continue to be targeted by dissidents, injured and murdered.
  • The G8 was brought to Northern Ireland and proceeded peacefully (if expensively). 2013 City of Culture was remarkably free from security alerts.
  • While extra money was received from the Treasury recognising the heightened level of threat, questions have remained about the number of officers the PSNI require. Police stations have closed (to save money on the estate) and hundreds officers have been redeployed into neighbourhood and response roles.
  • Crime levels have dropped.
  • Some commentators have been unhappy with the police chief wearing his faith on his sleeve.
  • The HET has rarely been out of the news …

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.

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