Baggott Takes PSNI Reins

The North's new police chief Matt Baggott today said he does not "diminish" the threat posed by dissident republicans, writes Paul Reilly.

Mr Baggott, speaking to assembled press at NI Policing Board headquarters in Belfast, he conceded the threat is "real", but was resolute that the PSNI has the support of the majority of the community.

"I don't diminish it, I don't underplay it, it is real. And there are some people doing some dedicated work at the moment to deal with it," he said of the threat.

"The way to deal with it is for communities themselves in the vast, vast majority to say 'No' to the people who want to return to the past."

The Chief Constable said it "saddened" him that some elements within the province were intent on carnage and a "future of hopelessness".

Insisting he was here to fulfill his full five year contract, the former Leicestershire Constabulary chief, said he was "mindful of the sensitivities of the past".

Besides the issue of terrorist violence, Mr Baggott said he would take actions by senior command to cut read tape "a stage further".

"I've come here with a record of challenging bureaucracy, challenging processes. I need to free people up to improve that policing presence."

The new police chief said he and his team would work to get "best use out of the resources we have", at a time of budget cuts.

On the matter of devolved policing justice powers, Mr Baggott said the final resolution rested with politicians.

Discussing the prospect of a Stormont policing minister, Mr Baggott insisted the "answers to most policing problems rest with local people".

Security was heightened across the province today in anticipation of the new chief constable taking office.

On Friday the PSNI launched Operation Dissent, which has seen an increase in police check points and more visible patrols.

Less than a fortnight ago army bomb experts defused a 600lb explosive planted by dissidents close to the border.

Last week sustained trouble erupted in Lurgan following the jailing of three local men in connection with a terrorist bomb plot.

See: 'Futile' Lurgan Violence Condemned


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