The successor to the North's police chief Hugh Orde will be decided today as four high-ranking candidates face a rigorous interview process in Belfast.
The identity of the new chief constable is due to be announced by the Northern Ireland Policing Board around 7.30pm after each of the short-listed applicants has made his case to the oversight body’s selection panel.
The men vying to take on the £184,000-a-year post leading the Police Service of Northern Ireland are: Matt Baggott, chief constable of Leicestershire Constabulary, Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), Jon Stoddart, chief constable of Durham Constabulary and Paul West, chief constable of West Mercia Police.
Each will be subject to an hour and half interview during which they will have to make a presentation on a policing theme chosen by the seven-strong board panel.
After the last candidate leaves board headquarters in Belfast’s Clarendon Dock at just before 5pm, members will break for dinner before reconvening to tally up marks and select the winner.
The appointment will have to be rubber stamped by Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward before board chairman Barry Gilligan makes the official announcement.
Five officers had been shortlisted for interview but last week Merseyside chief constable Bernard Hogan-Howe withdrew from the contest.
Orde is leaving the PSNI next month after seven years at the helm. He is taking up the post of president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).
Whoever replaces him will have the daunting task of tackling the increasing threat from dissident republican terrorists in the face of a dwindling budget, which was slashed by £120m (€139.5m) for the period 2008-11.
In addition, he will have to manage the transition required when policing and justice powers are devolved from Westminster to Stormont – a politically sensitive move that is expected within the next six months.
Crime rates have also risen in the region in the last year following a steady period of decline – a setback the PSNI have put down to a number of factors, one being the effect of the recession.
As well as the chairman, the interview panel consists of vice chairman Brian Rea, independent member Rosaleen Moore and Stormont Assembly members Leslie Cree (UUP), Dolores Kelly (SDLP), Alex Maskey (Sinn Féin) and Ian Paisley jnr (DUP).