Monday, 9 December 2013

Keeping you safe this Christmas

I haven't updated my blog for some months. This is sadly a reflection of recent events and pressures on the Police Service which have required a more formal response from the Chief Constable, and other senior colleagues, than that which a blog provides.

Over the past year the demands placed on your Police Service have been unprecedented. The gun attacks in recent days are just two examples of where individuals have tried to murder police officers who have been out delivering a local policing service in communities. Be assured that these attacks and the others before them will not deter us from providing the policing service that the vast majority of people have asked for and desire. Indeed he officers concerned were back on duty the next day, and I pay tribute to their enormous courage. The attacks were clearly directed towards the police, but they showed blatant and callous disregard for the community and could have easily resulted in tragedy in terms of both police and civilian casualties. Whilst these recent attacks are fresh in everyone's minds, again I appeal to anyone who knows anything about these and indeed previous attacks to come forward and assist us to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.

We have also welcomed the further talks being chaired by Dr Richard Haass. We acknowledge that the Haass talks focus on difficult and sensitive areas but these talks present a significant opportunity which we all have a responsibility to grasp. From a policing perspective we know only too well about the impact of tensions on the issues of the past, flags and parades. Every day we dedicate huge resources to these unresolved matters, resources which we would much prefer to focus on preventing serious harm to individuals across all communities. I suspect that members of the public would much rather their local Neighbourhood Police Officer for example was visible in his or her local community than having to provide additional patrols to thwart terrorist attacks or to police interfaces to keep communities apart.
I had the opportunity to patrol in Belfast City Centre recently and it was reassuring to see that despite the attempted car bomb people were not going to be deterred from heading out to undertake their Christmas shopping. And despite the concerns around the recent flag protest anniversary events, which mostly passed off peacefully, shoppers were still out and about in the City Centre. The Closing of the Gates Parade in Derry also passed off largely without incident and this is a credit to everyone involved.

Let me reassure you that we will do everything possible to keep you safe and make you feel safe this Christmas. Whether you are out and about in your local City or town shopping, driving on the roads or out socialising we will work to ensure that all those who are going about their daily routine lawfully are protected.

In return we also ask you for your support. Protect your home by keeping it secure and use simple and sensible crime prevention measures to protect your property and purchases. If you are out, remember do not drink and drive, and do not leave items visible in your vehicle. If you out socialising please make sure that you do not consume too much alcohol and plan in advance how you are going to get home safely.

I wish you all a safe and peaceful Christmas season.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Looking back on the friendliest and best Games ever

There have been many very memorable events in my policing career, but the 10 days of the World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) are a definite highlight.

I have received many letters and messages of support from local and international competitors, their friends and family members, colleagues and members of the public. Apart from the shameful disorder in Belfast last Friday evening, the Games should be celebrated as one of the most positive recent events in Northern Ireland's history.

I want to say, as Chair of the World Police and Fire Games Board, how much I and everyone taking part appreciated how the Northern Ireland public welcomed our visitors, embraced them and supported them. Many of them have spoken of their desire to come back again. In the words of Mike Graham, President of the World Police and Fire Games Federation, it truly was 'the friendliest and best Games ever'.

I have to pay tribute to the work of the WPFG Planning Team and of course to our patron Dame Mary Peters who has been such an amazing ambassador for the Games. You only had to listen and see the reception Dame Mary received everywhere she went, to understand why she was such a fantastic advocate for the Games.

I was delighted also to see how successful my Police Service of Northern Ireland colleagues and the other members of Team NI were. It was a great opportunity for members of the police, fire and prisons services to come together in sport instead of the often challenging professional circumstances that bring them together. Team NI netted a very commendable 54 Gold, 47 Silver and 40 Bronze medals, placing us 8th on the medal table out of 67.

I also had the pleasure of competing with a German colleague in the Indoor Mixed Rowing at the Waterfront Hall and whilst we didn't bring home a medal for Team NI, it was a fantastic experience and one which I will not forget. I have also developed many new international friendships.

We often talk about the 'legacy' of major events such as these Games but question what the actual benefit is in real terms. I have no doubt, based on my experiences of the past few weeks that the international reputation of Northern Ireland has been greatly enhanced as a place of welcome and beauty - A wonderful place that people want to come back to.

As a citizen of Northern Ireland, born and bred in the great City of Belfast, it saddens me that our worldwide reputation of warmly welcoming strangers, was jeopardised and in stark contrast to the naked sectarianism which culminated in the totally reprehensible violence and attacks on police officers last Friday.

Everyone must work together to ensure that there is no repetition of this violence. You can be assured that your police service will be playing its part in this regard.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Welcoming the start of the World Police & Fire Games 2013

I have spent the last two days at the World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) pre conference at Titanic in Belfast. It was a privilege forBelfast to host over 200 local and international visitors to discuss ‘Partnerships in Safety; Building Safe & Just Societies’.

It’s hard to believe that almost six years after Northern Ireland bid to host the World Police and Fire Games, that the day of its opening is finally here.  All we need is the sun to come back for a few hours!

Over the next ten days, nearly 7,000 competitors, from 66 countries will compete in 56 sports across 41 venues.  The atmosphere and anticipation are absolutely fabulous and if you have been in and around Belfast City over the past few days, the streets are alive with local people in WPFG regalia alongside international competitors and their supporters wearing crested team clothing from across the globe. 

I have already visited a number of locations to speak to the WPFG staff, who have been working around the clock to deliver the Games – a number of them have been involved right from the bidding stage.  I have also spoken to many of the 3,500 volunteers who have given of their time, free of charge, to help us make sure that all the competitors are supported and assisted and that all the sporting events run as planned.  I want to particularly thank them for the fantastic work which they are doing – without them the Games simply would not have been possible. 

If the Ice Hockey, which has been running from last week, is anything to go by, everyone including our competitors and spectators are in for a real treat.  I am really looking forward to getting to visit as many of the events as I can over the coming days and also to taking part in a few of them myself!

The Games is just one of a number of high profile events which Northern Ireland has hosted over the past few years.  This is yet another opportunity to put Northern Ireland and Belfast on the international stage for all the right reasons. Over the next few weeks I hope that you will make all our visitors very welcome..

All Games information is available on the WPFG website at where you can select a sport and find out everything you need to know including a detailed schedule of each event and a venue map.  You can also follow the Games on Facebook

So why not come along and show your support to your local police officers, fire fighters and prison officers as they compete for Team Northern Ireland.  This is your chance to experience the third largest sporting event in the world and the first ever time the Games have taken place in the United Kingdom

Spectating is free and there are some unique events you will not find in any other Games, so why not plan to be a part of the ‘friendliest Games’ ever.                 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Public disorder will solve nothing

I had very much hoped that I would not be blogging about public disorder six days after the 12th July.
The role of the Police Service of Northern Ireland in policing sensitive parades is not to question or query the determinations of the Parades Commission but to uphold the rule of law, and to police the determinations proportionately and resolutely.  Thankfully the severity of the disorder has reduced but every night since the 12th your Police Service, supported by colleagues who have joined us under mutual aid, have been faced with disorder to some degree. 

Seventy one police officers have been injured, 3 of whom are from GB.  Attacks on police officers are totally unacceptable and I thank those, from all quarters, who have publicly condemned these.   Each of these attacks has a human cost to the officers and to their families and colleagues.  A range of missiles, including blast bombs and 120 petrol bombs, have been used against police.  We have arrested sixty eight people and I was appalled to be told that amongst these were a 12 and a 13 year old child - I appeal to parents to be responsible and know where their children are at all times, in particular late at night and during periods of disorder.

The courage and professionalism of the officers who have been engaged on the front line has been outstanding.  There are those who have criticised the police tactics and in such cases where people feel a genuine sense of grievance, I would encourage them to report their complaint to the Police Ombudsman.   However when people are stripping walls of coping stones, climbing onto landrovers and attempting to thrown these down onto the top of police officers it is entirely reasonable to take proportionate steps to protect life.   Police officers have human rights too.   You may have seen the police equipment we put on display to the media a few days ago which showed the damage to police helmets and shields.

I want to pay particular tribute to our GB colleagues who have assisted us under mutual aid arrangements.  I have personally spoke, as has the Chief Constable, to many of them over the past week.  They have in some respect been making history as they are the first ever deployment of mutual aid to Northern Ireland, apart from G8. They have worked alongside PSNI colleagues and their contribution has been outstanding.  Ironically this is the first time many of them have been in Northern Ireland and the number who have said that, apart from the disorder,  they have enjoyed a warm  and sincere welcome and  that they have been amazed by the beautiful countryside  to the extent that they intend to come back and visit at some stage in the future.

Over the next few days, and in the run up to Saturday, I very much hope that tensions will reduce and that those of influence will re-double their efforts to ensure that the public disorder ends .  I thank all those involved in working to reduce tensions in sensitive areas.  This will help ensure that your police officers can return to their normal duties and concentrate on those issues which matter most to communities.

Public disorder will solve nothing and only serves to divide communities even further.  We have all worked far too hard to allow this to happen.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Preparing for G8

I spent yesterday out and about, with the Chief Constable, in Fermanagh and Armagh to see for myself the various venues and get an idea of the scale of the G8 Summit and policing operation.  Until you actually visit some of the venues it is hard to get a sense of the need for such a huge policing operation.

We also had the opportunity to talk to, and thank, many of the 3,600 colleagues who have come from policing services in Great Britain to support the operation.

There is no doubt that this is an unprecedented policing operation and on top of the safe delivery of the G8 Summit your police service also has to deliver on normal day to day policing business which will continue in the background.

I was very impressed by the way so many of my police and staff colleagues have worked together to deliver the infrastructure necessary for such a challenge.  Their determination, resilience and professionalism has been truly outstanding.  Much of the infrastructure is temporary, and has been put in place over the past few months, and the operation will continue for sometime after the Summit to dismantle this.

What I saw yesterday reinforced my sense of pride in a truly great organisation of amazing people.  Many organisations plan for years to deliver an event of this scale but we have only had a few months to plan, prepare and deliver. 

In an international event of this scale involving the world leaders, we have to accept a level of disruption.  However, it is also a huge opportunity for Northern Ireland and for County Fermanagh in particular.  We want this Summit to showcase the very best of Northern Ireland.  For our part, we will certainly be doing everything we possibly can to minimise disruption and to make sure the world leaders, their delegations and the world’s media  take away positive and lasting memories of their visit to Northern Ireland.

If you want to keep up to date with all the information relating to the policing of G8 you can follow us on Facebook or twitter

Friday, 17 May 2013

Launch of Rural Crime Unit at Balmoral Show

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of visiting the new venue for the Balmoral Show at the Maze site near Lisburn. I would like to congratulate the organisers for what is an excellent venue and show.

My primary reason for being there was to jointly launch the new Rural Crime Unit with the Minister of Justice, David Ford. The very last thing farmers need right now, with everything else that is going on, is to suffer loss or damage at the hands of criminals.

The Unit, with financial support from the Department of Justice and NFU Mutual, will enable the Police Service to dedicate resources to focusing exclusively on rural crime. The Unit will liaise with police across Northern Ireland to provide a co-ordinated response to this issue. There are many initiatives to help and protect the farming community already in place and this new Unit is a very welcome development. It will provide additional support to farmers and assist us in directing resources to where they are needed most. To find out more about how to prevent rural crime visit or contact your local Crime Prevention Officer who will be very happy to provide you with information and advice.

In stark contrast not that far away from the Show, terrorists were in the final stages of mounting a murder attempt on police officers who, like their colleagues at Balmoral Park, were out in the community delivering a service and working to keep people safe. Thankfully the officers were uninjured but those who carried out this attack showed a blatant disregard for the safety of those who live in that area. When you see images of bullet holes in parked cars it shows not just what a lucky escape local residents had, but also the recklessness of the terrorists. There is no such thing as a responsible or acceptable attack on police, but this attack was particularly indiscriminate. However, despite this potentially murderous attack, those officers and their colleagues are back out again today, undeterred, supporting and protecting communities.

Whether it’s preventing rural crime or detecting those responsible for acts of terror, your support is critical in the form of information and reporting suspicious activity. Our desire, and ability, to provide the finest personal, professional and protective policing service is greatly enhanced when the police and communities work together. With your help and support we will continue to make a difference.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Recent visit to Belfast Royal Academy

I had the pleasure of revisiting one of my old schools last week. I had been invited to speak with a group of sixth formers, all of whom happened to be girls. 

I had been invited by Eddie McCamley, my former history teacher. Although no longer teaching, he now spends his retirement assisting the school to connect with former pupils.

I'll not tell you exactly what year I left Belfast Royal Academy, but it was lovely to be back and as I walked through the school it brought back many old memories.  Belfast Royal Academy is the oldest school in Belfast, established in 1785 in what is now the Academy Street area.  It moved to its current site on the Cliftonville Road in 1880.

I had only been at the school up until 3rd year, as it was known then, but living at the time at the top of the New Lodge Road, during some of the most troubled years, it was a sanctuary for the many young people who went there.  I noted the diversity of the school now, and it was great to see young people from a wide range of cultures and communities learning together in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect.  

I was reminded of the day that there was trouble in the area and the Headmaster of the time personally walked my sister and I along the Antrim Road to make sure that we got home safely.  I was more concerned about being seen under the escort of the Headmaster than being harmed by any trouble that was going on.  On reflection I was very grateful to him for such care and consideration.  It was perhaps an indication of a teacher's standing at that time that he could march us unscathed down the Cliftonville Road towards home. 

I had been asked to share my career experiences with the group of girls and then to take some questions.  It always amazes me how interested, informed and challenging a group like this can be. Their questions were refreshingly direct, frank, insightful and thoughtful. 

One thing that was clear , there was an appetite amongst a number of them considering a career in policing.  They were interested to hear more about when we will be recruiting, what the selection criteria would be and what was required during training.  I was able to let them know that we would be seeking to recruit again in the near future.

They also asked about balancing a family life with a policing career and how I had coped with the various challenges over my 31 years policing experience.  I was able to reassure them that despite all the challenges, past and present, I did try to live a relatively normal life outside of the day job. 

It was lovely also to catch up afterwards with the Headmaster, Mr Dickson, and to share reflections on our school days.  In this regard it is important that I pay tribute to those teachers who had such an important influence on me, both at Belfast Royal Academy and later at Regent House School, Newtownards in my formative years.  We sometimes forget what an important and influential job teachers have, in particular those who work so hard across communities to bring children together in an atmosphere of understanding and mutual respect.  Such early investments, I am convinced, can have long term rewards.