The chances of a home-grown police officer replacing outgoing PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott are set to increase after a key application requirement was amended.
In the past, only senior officers who had served for at least two years at assistant chief constable rank in a police force outside Northern Ireland were eligible to apply for the PSNI’s top job.
But Justice Minister David Ford has announced that that criterion will be changed from mandatory to desirable in the process to find Mr Baggott’s successor.
Mr Baggott, who was appointed in 2009, last week informed the Northern Ireland Policing Board that he will not be seeking a contract extension when his present term of employment ends in September.
Mr Ford said the change to the application process was in line with similar moves in other police services. He said the successful candidate for chief constable should also have completed a strategic command course.
“In light of changes to appointment procedures and requirements elsewhere in policing, during the second half of 2013, I sought the views of the Policing Board, the PSNI and other key stakeholders with regard to the criteria when appointing a new chief constable in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“This is part of an ongoing review of police terms and conditions in the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
“I have decided to remove the mandatory requirement that the chief constable must have served as (at least) an assistant chief constable for two years elsewhere, but that such experience should be retained as desirable criteria for the Policing Board when appointing a new chief constable.”
He added: “I considered it important to ensure the criteria allows for as wide a pool of candidates as possible. It is however for the Policing Board to consider the experiences of those involved and whether they consider applicants to be suitably qualified.”
“It is important to note that, in setting some minimum standards, I am not prohibiting the Board from adding to these minimum criteria as they consider the skills, experience and competencies required of a new chief constable.”
Last night the First Minister Peter Robinbson and the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness revealed they had instructed Mr Ford to bring the matter to the attention of the power-sharing executive for consideration.
They said they had determined it was a “significant matter” under the terms of the ministerial code.