And so farewell, Matt Baggott. You were a good man – a Christian, by all accounts. But whether the post of Chief Constable requires one who’s prepared to turn the other cheek is a moot point. The perception for many of us was that your policing approach was less softly-softly than sitting duck. The sight of police being pelted with stones, bricks and petrol bombs by flag protestors, without apparent response, raised the thought in many nationalist and republican minds: if these had been republican bricks and petrol bombs, would the hurlers have received equally kid-glove treatment? Yes, your approach did result in some 600 people being charged, but in these things perception matters. The lasting perception many of us have is of your men being hammered, yobs dancing on your landrovers, and illegal protests ignoring police reminders of law-breaking as they marched through the centre of Belfast.
And then of course there was the Historical Inquiries Team, found to be seriously deficient on matters where blame might have applied to the security forces. Plus Camp Twaddell, which goes on and on costing the public tens of thousands of pounds per week.
Yes, you kept protestors away from the G8 summit in Fermanagh and you got several millions pounds more to fund your police force. But the G8 summit represented some of the richest nations on earth; protest, had it occurred, would have been about the need for world wealth to be more equitably distributed. And while it’s good you got all that money, is that how we judge a Chief Constable’s effectiveness: that he or she can get money?
Finally, Matt, you do know that by announcing your impending retirement, you’ve transformed yourself into a lame duck Chief Constable. A sitting duck police service led by a lame duck Chief Constable. Mmm. You’re a good man, Matt, but a bad – OK, not bad – flawed Chief Constable. Anyway slan abhaile – safe home.
Now – who’s next?