Orde steps down as North police chief

Hugh Orde’s tenure as the North's Chief Constable ends today after seven years in charge of policing the region.

Hugh Orde’s tenure as the North's Chief Constable ends today after seven years in charge of policing the region.

The 51-year-old, who is leaving the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to become president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, will be succeeded by current Leicestershire chief Matt Baggott.

Mr Baggott will take up the role on September 22, with PSNI deputy chief Judith Gillespie taking charge until then.

Orde led his officers during a time of unprecedented change for policing in the North, overseeing a series of reforms born out of the peace process.

Under the recommendations of former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, the PSNI, which replaced the old Royal Ulster Constabulary, proactively went about recruiting more Catholic officers in a bid to make the service more representative.

Almost 30% of policemen and women are now Catholic, compared with 8% in the RUC.

As a result of the Patten reforms, the PSNI has secured the political support of the nationalist SDLP and, more recently, Sinn Féin.

While crime rates dropped by almost a quarter during Orde’s seven years at the helm, he has expressed frustration over the failure to secure convictions for series of other high-profile crimes, including the Omagh bombing.

The inability to jail anyone for the 1998 Real IRA attack in Omagh, the Northern Bank Robbery in 2004, the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney the following year, and the embarrassing break-in at police headquarters in Castlereagh in 2002 have all been cited as blots on the outgoing officer’s copybook.

And a leaked internal report on the PSNI last week also expressed concerns that the service is being choked by paperwork and needs to be freed up to fight crime.

Orde leaves with the threat from dissident republicans still at a high level following the murders of three security force members in March, including Pc Steven Carroll – the first PSNI officer killed by terrorists.

As he prepared to step down last week, the Chief Constable fired a parting shot at the Stormont administration, accusing it of not doing enough to tackle segregation and division in the region.

He said that, while his officers remained determined to face off the threat posed by dissidents, the authorities had to do more to address the underlying causes of conflict and tension in the region.

“There are real issues, social issues that need to be addressed by all communities and all institutions if we are to move on and understand why people just still don’t get on in the routine of their daily lives, why we still have segregated communities, why we still have peace walls,” he said.

“Those are questions that are far wider than policing that seem to be a bit on the back burner, so that needs to move on.”

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