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Police chief leaving 'with a heavy heart'

HOMEPAGE NEWS REPORTS INDEX NEWS AUG 2009
Original Source:  LEICESTER MERCURY: 14 AUGUST 2009
By cfagan ciaran fagan social affairs correspondent
Leicester Mercury
  Friday, August 14, 2009, 09:30
 

Chief Constable Matt Baggott says he is leaving Leicestershire with a "heavy heart".

Mr Baggott, who was named the next chief of the Police Service of Northern Ireland on Tuesday, said under his leadership his force had locked up more than its fair share of big-time criminals, kept gun crime low and stuck to a promise to put more bobbies on the beat.

But Mr Baggott said one of his big regrets would be leaving Leicestershire with
Madeleine McCann, the Rothley youngster who disappeared in Portugal in May 2007, still missing.

The 50-year-old father of three, who will take up his new post in the autumn, said: "I will be leaving Leicestershire with a heavy heart.

"We're punching above our weight here in dealing with serious crime.

"I'm delighted we have locked up major criminals, including drugs barons.

"Also, Leicester does not have the level of gun crime that a city of its size might be expected to see.

"The officers who are tackling those armed criminals are doing an excellent job and will continue to do so.

"But Madeleine is still missing.

"Clearly I still hope and pray that one day there will be an end to the sadness and that what has happened to her will become clear.

"It's a huge investigation and we will continue to follow up all leads."

Mr Baggott, a Christian, was the unanimous choice of Northern Ireland Police Board.

The board, whose members are chosen to represent the communities of the province, said he had won the post because of his track record on neighbourhood policing.

Mr Baggott said the way he had policed Leicester would transfer to the province, where the peace process has transformed lives.

He said: "People want safety and they want confidence.

"They want to be involved in policing and that has been our story in Leicestershire.

"The team I have in Leicestershire has delivered a presence in our neighbourhoods which is reliable and consistent.

"There are no no-go areas. My officers are part of people's lives.

"It's never going to be perfect but, hopefully, that will be my legacy in Leicestershire."

The job of chief constable in Northern Ireland is regarded as one of the toughest policing jobs in the United Kingdom.

During the Troubles, the force was seen as partisan organisation.

Since the peace process resulted in the province getting more political control over its own affairs, the police now enjoy the support of all major political parties.

However, dissident terrorist factions are still active.

Mr Baggott said: "The people of Northern Ireland are on an amazing journey. Being part of that is humbling.

"It is a tremendous privilege and I have a huge responsibility to fulfil the trust they have shown in me."

The search for a new chief for Leicestershire will begin shortly.

An appointment is expected early in the new year.

Deputy Chief Constable Chris Eyre is expected to fill the top job in Mr Baggott's absence until a successor is chosen.

Byron Rhodes, chairman of Leicestershire Police Authority, said this week that Mr Baggott was one of the best chief constables in the country.

Mr Rhodes said he expected a number of high-quality candidates to apply to be his replacement.  

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