DUP says new chief constable must avoid politics and repair relations with the unionist community

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Photo: /)
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Photo: /)

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson congratulated former Bedfordshire chief Jon Boutcher on his appointment, having seen off a younger challenger from within the PSNI’s own ranks, Bobby Singleton.

But he also said that the force he is now in charge of was one where “political considerations were influencing operational decisions”.

"This has cemented longstanding concerns around two-tier policing,” he said.

"Such stumbling blocks to policing confidence must be removed.

"The Democratic Unionist Party will be engaging with the new Chief Constable to hear his plans to restore confidence and improve relations with the Unionist community.

"This appointment must not be a false dawn.

"It should be a catalyst for delivering a police service that treats every tradition and community with a fair hand and avoids many of the own goals we have seen in recent times.

“No-one underestimates the scale of the challenge. We need a clear focus on policing rather than politics.

"There is a huge deficit in the police budget and it is well documented that officer numbers are at their lowest ever level.

"This is already leading to a less visible police presence in our communities and in the future it will take longer to investigate crime."

And a statement also came from DUP East Belfast MLA Joanne Bunting, who was one of three MLAs who were in charge of picking the new chief constable (the others being former bomber and jailbreaker Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein, and Nuala McAllister of the Alliance Party).

The appointment was finalised tonight with the sign-off from Tory NI Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.

In her statement, Ms Bunting said: “I look forward to working with Jon as he leads the Service in addressing the serious issues currently impacting on confidence both inside and outside the PSNI – not least the perilous financial situation, risks to officers following the data breach and the increasingly sophisticated nature of crime.

"As someone who has consistently shone a spotlight on two-tier policing, I also believe there is an onus on the new Chief Constable to deliver a step change in how the Service responds to legitimate concerns voiced by the Unionist community.

"Past mistakes must not be repeated. The rule of law must be applied without fear or favour and there can be no role for political interference in operational decisions.”