Page last updated at 05:24 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 06:24 UK

'No ivory tower' - Matt Baggott in Leicester

by Vincent Kearney
BBC NI Home Affairs Correspondent

Matt Baggott
Matt Baggott will take over as PSNI chief constable on Tuesday

For Jean Williams, a bobby on the beat is just a phonecall away.

She is known as the "Queen of St Matthew's", one of Leicester's largest estates and the second poorest council ward in England.

More than 3,500 people from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds live there and more than 50 languages are spoken.

Jean Williams has headed the tenants' association for more than 20 years. There used to be 300 crimes a week, now it is regarded as one of the safest areas in Leicester.

"The crime rate dropped considerably because police on the beat are more than police in the car. They have to be a part of the community, if they're not, it is not going to work," she said.

"The officers down here know the tenants. They know who's undesirable and know to work with people to make life better.

"At any time you can stop and talk to any of the officers down here. No matter what it is.

"Community policing does work because you have got officers who have been down here for a long time and become part of the furniture. People feel confident in going and talking to them and trusting them."

Simply to see uniformed officers on the street does reduce crime. I think we are going back to the old way of policing - a demand of the British people for many years
Suleiman Nagdi

Personal policing is a mantra for Northern Ireland's new chief constable, Matt Baggott. When he was appointed chief constable in Leicestershire over six years ago, the first letter he received was from Jean Williams.

She asked a simple question: Was he going to be a chief constable who lived in an ivory tower or one who would make a difference?

A short time later, he dropped in for a chat about what local residents wanted.

"If anything was going on he would contact you and talk. He has been a good officer," said Jean.

Matt Baggott is regarded as an expert in the area of community policing. That is something the Police Service of Northern Ireland accepts that it needs to improve.

A recent internal policing report made public by the BBC found that officers spent 60% of their time inside police stations doing paperwork instead of out on the streets.

Suleiman Nagdi, chairman of the Federation of Muslim Organisations in Leicestershire, whose son is a police officer, said the Baggott style of policing had proved "a great success".

Jim Gamble, John Stoddart, Paul West and Matt Baggott
Four senior officers were in contention for the PSNI chief constable post

"They are cutting down on the amount of paperwork that is required for police officers, so that they can dedicate more time to being on the street with the people.

"Simply to see uniformed officers on the street does reduce crime. I think we are going back to the old way of policing - a demand of the British people for many years. We need to see visible police officers out on the streets walking as opposed to being in cars.

"I think that Matt Baggott has taken that step forward by implementing the demands of the people in the city."

Mr Nagdi is unstinting in his praise.

"What is Northern Ireland's gain is Leicester's loss," he said.

Matt Baggott arrives at a time when the threat from dissident republicans is growing, the government is demanding a £17m cut to the policing budget and just weeks after that damning internal report said it was failing to deliver an effective 24-hour service.

The new PSNI chief constable is expected to briefly outline his vision for policing in Northern Ireland after he meets his senior command team and the Policing Board on Tuesday.



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