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.

  • When I heard the news, I was inclined like Alan to think of other police services.
    We have a curious merry-go-round of Chief Constables and senior police officers. There always seems to be a monthly TV appearance from the Inspector of Constabulary or the Association of Chief Constables and in bigger police forces we seem familiar with even Assistant Chief Constables thru press conferences.
    We can speculate on their career trajectory by referencing their youth, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and photogenic appearance.

    Nobody ever seems to stay in office for a long time. In part its…obviously….an age thing.
    Not just in terms of the “number”….Baggott (courtesy of Wikipedia ) is 54 or 55….rather it is a sense of not really understanding the world around us.
    Baggott… a policeman …for 30 odd years…possibly wakes up to the latest memo or survey and technology and thinks “time I got out of here”. He might even have grandchildren.
    Of course he might be the kinda person who loves “change”.
    But I suspect that most Sluggerites who have retired in the past few years know what I’m saying. Indeed many in the “zone” (54-55) will be tempted, having one eye on the package.

    People on these kinda salaries whether in PSNI or West Yorkshire have to weigh it up. I already know the choice I made with far less temptation.
    Baggott was sadly a failure. He did not stamp any kind of authority on his office. And failed the political test. The PSNI is as much a political police force as theRUC. Ever was.
    While the RUC found Republicans under every bed….necessary for the narrative of 1922-1998….the PSNI could not find a UVF man (or republican dissident)….even if they read the Sunday newspapers.
    Because our post- conflict narrative dictates Denial.
    And Baggott got caught out with the politics of it all.

    Its a pity. PSNI had the golden opportunity of starting from scratch. And largely succeeded. It has the good will of three communities and has largely rid itself of the canteen culture of casual sectarianism, sexism, racism, homophobia and boorishness that marks many police forces.
    Next man …or woman ….in will be one of those bright young folks making a name for themselves on the Policing circuit…a youngish Garda ACC was on RTE last night and its only a matter of time.
    So the CVs are being prepared.
    Those Deputy Chief Constables who have hosted press conferences claiming credit for a big investigation can be grateful that they are not better known for issuing an apology on the steps of a court.
    Its all aboutL Luck and Timing.

  • Charles_Gould

    I thought he was an excellent Chief Constable. I would like to wish him well for the future and thank him for all the work he has put in down the years.

  • Neil

    He’ll be sorely missed. By criminals mostly.

  • Charles_Gould

    He is much too young to retire for a person of that level. He will have plenty of career opportunities after this.

  • Actually he is a couple of years older than me when I retired.
    And if I had his pension package I would have retired at 28.
    Taking all things into consideration, Retirement is much more fun than work.

  • cynic2

    “a youngish Garda ACC was on RTE last night and its only a matter of time”.

    A very long time i suspect., The law debars them and changing it needs DUP agreement

  • Mc Slaggart


    “The law debars ”

    intresting, which law debars the uk police employing a EU citizen?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I can’t find the legislation governing who appoints the Chief Constable at all, never mind the required qualifications.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ah, found it here.

    Doesn’t say anything about the qualifications, these are probably PSNI or Police Board guidelines rather than law.

    Note that the Secretary of State must approve any appointment.

  • Neil

    Don’t see anything about serving elsewhere either. Pending changes to the act move responsibility from the PB to Justice Minister.

  • Son of Strongbow

    This issue was raised at a Justice Committee hearing in October last year. Seniors from the Justice Department were questioned by the Committee with reference to the need (if any) for local developments in light of the changes in GB policing structures, and the implications of the novel use of Mutual Aid in NI during the year (G8).

    The two-year criteria is drawn from Police Regulations which the Policing Board adhere to when fulfilling its responsibility to appoint a CC.

    Of course the irony here is that the requirement to serve elsewhere was a Patten ‘reform’ introduced because the RUC was felt to be “too insular”.

  • IrelandNorth

    The unemployed often complain that they can’t get a job because they’ve no experience. And they can’t get experience because they’ve no job. Somewhat of a chicken and egg conundrum. Yet, like solutions to the most complicated problems, the answer is relatively straighforward. David Ford should get on to his southern counterpart Alan Shatter, and suggest that current Deputy Assistant Chief Constable (DACC) of the the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Judith Gillespie, be considered for the position of Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Án Gárda Síochána na h’Éireann (ÁGSÉ) for the requisite period to qualify her as PSNI/CC. Matt Baggot’s successor could be contracted for two years. Then if DACC/DC Gillespie wished to head up ÁGSÉ, Commissioner Callanan may have retired in the intervening years. The Commissioners current deputy might equally be seconded to the PSNI for like period. This would not only be good for gender equality, but would go a long way to challenge patriarchal culture in both police forces on the Island.