Northern Ireland’s first home-grown chief constable for 12 years has claimed a passion for the Province drove him to the top job.
Co Down father-of-four George Hamilton said he was “honoured and humbled” to have been appointed as Matt Baggott’s successor.
Mr Baggott is retiring later this year after five years in the high-profile post.
He had succeeded fellow Londoner Sir Hugh Orde who took the helm of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in 2002, shortly after it replaced the old Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) as part of peace process reforms.
Mr Hamilton, from Bangor, saw off competition from Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick and Garda Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne during intensive interviews and testing at the PSNI’s oversight body, the Policing Board, in Belfast.
That a board containing Sinn Fein members backed the appointment of an officer who has spent almost half of his career in the RUC is being viewed as a politically significant step.
“I care passionately about this place,” Mr Hamilton, 46, said when asked why he applied.
“I have a stake in it, I have got family here. I have lived here for most of my life and I believe that it’s important that we all work together and everyone makes the contribution that they can to make Northern Ireland a better place to live, to work, to visit.
“I want to be the chief constable to make Northern Ireland a safer, better, more confident place.”
One of the current challenges is that the PSNI’s resources are being stretched trying to fulfil its obligations to both investigate and provide information to the Coroners Service in regard to historic Troubles-related cases.
He said the PSNI faced “massive challenges” in regard to legacy cases, but stressed the importance of the work.
He said they are “not just to be written off as some sort of second division policing – those are real issues for families today who still feel pain and hurt and so that will be an important issue that we need to deal with together.”
Currently a PSNI assistant chief constable, Mr Hamilton was the only locally-based officer eligible to apply for the £195,000-a-year chief’s post after the Policing Board opted to retain the controversial criterion that required all candidates to have served at least two years at senior command level outside Northern Ireland.
He was assistant chief constable in Strathclyde from 2009 to 2011 and also worked in England for three years on a range of police training and organisational development projects.
The new chief faces a stacked in-tray when he takes over the reins.
As well as the historic caseload, the PSNI is trying to balance a dwindling budget with its ongoing fight against dissident republican terrorism – a challenge emphasised by a fire bomb attack at a Londonderry hotel on Thursday.
Also, last year almost 850 officers were injured in rioting linked to disputes over flags and parades.
With Northern Ireland’s politicians having failed to strike any deal to resolve the issues, the spectre of a recurrence of disorder this summer again looms large.
On the stalled efforts to reach consensus over the thorny political problems, Mr Hamilton said: “Of course I, like anyone else who has got a stake, who cares passionately about the well-being of Northern Ireland, would like to see a resolution to that.”