Page last updated at 09:58 GMT, Thursday, 16 April 2009 10:58 UK

Profile: Sir Hugh Orde

Sir Hugh Orde
Sir Hugh Orde will be leaving his role of Northern Ireland chief constable

Sir Hugh Orde, Chief Constable for Northern Ireland, has been named the new president of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Sir Hugh's appointment will come as no surprise to many colleagues after he narrowly missed out on becoming Metropolitan Police Commissioner earlier this year.

His seven years as chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland marked him out as a prime candidate for another senior policing job in the UK.

Few other jobs in world policing come with more political and security pressures than watching over a community long divided by a bitter and bloody conflict.

Since his appointment to Belfast in 2002, the Surrey-born 50-year-old has not only managed the exceptionally difficult challenges of reforming the force, he has won the support of unprecedented numbers of nationalists and Catholics, forged strong political bonds with America and remained at the forefront of one of the two major terror threats to the UK.

Early career

Sir Hugh Orde began his policing career with the Metropolitan Police in 1977, initially serving in central London.

Metropolitan Police officers in the 1980s
Sir Hugh began his career in policing with the Met

When he was posted to Brixton as a sergeant, he got his first taste of the challenges of policing in communities where officers do not have the trust of some residents.

He was soon marked out as a high-flyer and given a number of key positions in the Met, leading to management of major crime investigations across the south-west of the capital.

During the 1990s he developed the Met's community and race relations training programmes.

In 1998 he became commander for crime in south-west London. The following year he was the officer in charge of the aftermath of the Brixton bomb, planted by David Copeland, a man consumed by racial-hatred.

During this period he developed Operation Trident, one of the capital's most important continuing strategies which targets drugs-related gun crime occurring in black communities.

This led to him working in both Jamaica and South Africa where police forces have been developing similar strategies on organised crime.

Sir Hugh Orde and JuSir Hugh's first policing role in Northern Ireland was with the Stevens inquiry
Sir Hugh's first policing role in Northern Ireland was with the Stevens inquiry

Sir Hugh became a deputy assistant commissioner of the Met in 1999 and is a graduate of the FBI's top-flight National Executive Institute.

His links to America go beyond the FBI - he has been a regular at the White House because of the US's interest in solving the problems of Northern Ireland - and has also held meetings with the new Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

The chief constable has faced press scrutiny in the past, most notably when it emerged that while married he had an affair with an undercover detective back in England. He now lives with that woman and their child.

Northern Ireland

It was his promotion the higher ranks of the Met that led to his involvement in Northern Ireland.

The then Met commissioner, Sir John Stevens, was investigating allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and elements of the security forces.

Sir Hugh had day-to-day responsibility for this crucial investigation into a dark episode in the history of The Troubles.

The job meant handling not just a potentially explosive inquiry - but also attempting to keep current officers on board, while reaching out to Nationalists demanding answers.

That work led directly in 2002 to Sir Hugh's appointment as chief constable with responsibility for continuing the police reforms.

One of his key tasks was to raise Catholic recruitment, a critical factor in reducing the threat of the IRA and its splinter groups.

Almost half of Northern Ireland's population is Catholic - but they comprised only 8% of the officers in 2001.

Today, Catholics make up a quarter of all officers and the constabulary's powerful watchdog says it is on target to hit 30% by 2011.

His biggest failing in many people's eyes will have been the continuing failure to bring to justice the men responsible for the 1998 Omagh bomb.

Slain officer

One of his most important days in the job was a groundbreaking first meeting with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, a critical political step towards winning Catholic support.

A year later, however, he made it categorically clear that he was first and foremost a policeman when he publicly blamed the IRA for the massive 2004 Northern Bank Robbery.

Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Hugh Orde, right, and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy walk behind the coffin of Constable Stephen Carroll
Sir Hugh struggled to hold back tears at the funeral of one of his officers

During his years in Belfast, Sir Hugh has seen the end of the IRA threat - but continued dangers posed by dissident republicans and loyalist paramilitaries remained.

That was made clear with the murder of two soldiers and a member of the PSNI by dissident republicans.

Speaking at the funeral of Constable Stephen Carroll in Banbridge Sir Hugh struggled to hold back tears as he told mourners his slain officer "would not be forgotten".

His experiences of dealing with political violence in Northern Ireland, including a controversial 2008 meeting with Loyalist paramilitaries, has convinced him that policing tactics alone cannot end terrorism. He has said the UK should not rule out talking to al-Qaeda when the organisation realises it cannot win.

This analysis neatly sums up the tension in counter-terrorism circles: politicians worry about speaking to extremists, but some police officers and officials say history shows there is a time to talk.

Print Sponsor

Orde quits NI police for new role
16 Apr 09 |  Northern Ireland
Orde will be hard act to follow
16 Apr 09 |  Northern Ireland
Reaction to Orde's departure
16 Apr 09 |  Northern Ireland
Orde 'would be rejected by PSNI'
13 Apr 09 |  Northern Ireland

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific