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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 00:10 GMT 01:10 UK
Chief constable's challenge

The new Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Hugh Orde, has begun his first day in his new role.

He comes from the Metropolitan Police to a role which is fraught with enormous difficulties. Here he answers questions put by BBC News Online.

Many people see this as the most difficult policing job in the UK, why do you want to do it?

When I was appointed chief constable, I said the job was not for the faint-hearted and I was under no illusion that there were many challenges ahead.

I applied for the job because I genuinely believe I can make a difference. I am very proud to have been selected.

This is definitely one of the most challenging jobs in policing. The PSNI are quite rightly respected all over the world and the overwhelming majority of officers do a magnificent job, but I will not accept anything that falls below an acceptable standard.

I am relying on all my officers to deliver. They will be accountable to me, in the same way as I will be accountable to the Policing Board for delivering a professional service to the community.

What do you see as your main challenges?

I want to provide the most effective policing service for the community of Northern Ireland and ensure that police officers have the resources to help them to deliver that service.

I want to empower the district commanders and give them the resources and technology to deliver services at the front end to their communities.

What is your view of the acting chief constable's report to the Policing Board that the PSNI is "overstretched to the point of being critical"?

The PSNI is under extreme pressure because of the recent street violence and injuries to officers.

I will be looking at what we have in the service at the moment and will be looking at restructuring departments.

I want to make sure that the PSNI is in the best shape to serve the community and is effective as it can be.

If that means we need to change our structures then we will do that, but we will not do it in a knee-jerk sort of way.

How important do you think it is that Sinn Fein members become part of the "new beginning to policing" envisaged by the Patten report?

I am willing to talk to anyone and work with anyone who wants to make a positive contribution to policing and therefore a positive contribution to the community.

What will be your main priorities as you take up your new post?

I am worried about the drop in the number of police officers and will turn my mind quickly to the future of the full-time reserve.

The level of sickness is also a key issue I will be addressing in the coming months.

The next couple of years will be very exciting. Policing is vital to the peace process in Northern Ireland. If we get it right then we can make a more significant contribution to achieving a lasting peace than any other organisation.

It is a daunting task, but I am confident that the PSNI will deliver.

What restructuring measures do you intend to take within the service?

The structure of district command units is vital to the success of policing. I want district commanders to be able to focus on their jobs. They will play a crucial part in the future. They will have the power and the responsibility to perform.

Other specialist areas, such as CID, also have vital roles to perform. We have lost a lot of talented people with key skills and that needs to be addressed.

Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

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