CHIEF Constable Matt Baggott has told the Progressive Unionist Party’s annual conference in Belfast that the PSNI is working hard to tackle drug-dealers and crime in the community.
The Chief Constable, who said he attended the conference in the “spirit of friendship”, said he wanted loyalist communities to “trust us”.
Mr Baggott said: “I want your communities to trust us, because if you don’t, it gives others the legitimacy to step into that gap.
“We need to be the only legitimate authority.”
More than 100 people attended the conference at Ramada Encore in Belfast city centre on Saturday.
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson told conference-goers: “We need to ensure organised crime doesn’t take over our communities.
“You cannot be a loyalist and a criminal.”
Mr Hutchinson said he was “no less of a loyalist or British citizen because I talk to republicans”.
“People in this room need to work with the police to ensure international crime doesn’t take a grip, because if it does come, it will come to working class communities,” he said.
Mr Hutchinson also insisted that dissident republican violence should be left to be dealt with by the PSNI.
He added that the Protestant working class community had found itself marginalised by some of the decisions of the Parades Commission and others.
Former leader Dr John Kyle said the Chief Constable “was received very well”.
Dr Kyle said: “He spoke well and was direct in his comments. He was given a very good hearing.
“Following his speech there was a robust question and answer session on issues such as the Historical Enquiry Team, supergrass trials, parading and the arrest of the YCV bandsmen.
“But it was a very healthy dialogue. It was good natured but people were speaking with considerable feeling.
“Among the audience were a number of combatants and others. His speech at the outset was courageous.”
Dr Kyle, who spoke at the conference on welfare reform, said: “While the aims of the welfare reform legislation are constructive and positive, we have major concerns on the detail and impact.
“Welfare reform is too important to be done in a cack-handed manner with an ulterior motive of saving money.”
Dr Kyle said that one of the speakers on Saturday had a presentation ‘The hidden history of Protestants and the Irish language’.
He said: “That presentation was about how Irish was widely spoken by the Irish middle-class in the 1800s and early 1900s.
“It was a presentation by Linda Ervine, an excellent presentation making the point the Irish language does not belong to one tradition. It is part of our heritage as well.
“We want to make sure that we don’t reject it.”