Here we are, still sold on the idea of how exceptional we are. Comment on Mick’s post on the appointment of a chief constable failed to notice that there’s a wider world out there. It’s no longer the case that the PSNI have “the toughest policing job in in the world” and other superlatives. Try the Met which has gone through three commissioners in five years. Race issues, jihadist extremism and flash rioting in today’s human rights culture make it very tough for the police everywhere. The PSNI may actually be in a better position than the police service in England where there is a supposed crisis of public confidence.
Northern Ireland conditions are no longer so distinctive in policing terms. Many police services in England are newly accountable to elected police and crime commissioners elected on a very low poll. There is no local equivalent of the London mayor, and in a perverse way the sectarian divide provides some protection against an arbitrary exercise of power.
The application of policing by consent to Northern Ireland has been as much of a success as could be hoped for. Baggot was the first CC to have no direct knowledge of NI. (Orde was Stevens’ deputy, and knew where the metaphorical bodies were buried and he was clearly on the rise). The thing to watch for is whether the top job will attract rising stars. The changes to allow an appointment from within are surely sensible provided a suitable level of training has been reached and the force isn’t allowed to become introverted.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London