New police chief promises to deliver
DELIVERING the best possible policing service is the key aim of the recently appointed District Commander for the new North West District, which includes the Magherafelt area.
Chief Superintendent Richard Russell, who took up the post on April 1, has a broad remit.
His role, he explains to the MAIL, is to co-ordinate policing and to manage a two-year programme of change in this new District, which also covers the Foyle, Limavady and Strabane areas.
The changes are part of an overall reform being implemented to the policing structure in Northern Ireland, which will see its 29 policing units reduced to just eight.
“The structure of policing will be very different in two years time,” says Chief Supt Russell, “but the changes will be effected in the background. Our key message is still the same. We want to deliver the best possible policing service.”
Formerly, the Local Commander for the Foyle area, Chief Supt Russell’s new job also invests him with responsibility for the North West District’s annual budget, which he says will drop in the future.
He’s pragmatic about this wholesale structural reform, believing that it makes economic sense, likening it to the introduction of the proposed ‘super councils.’ “It’s all about delivering value for money,” he says.
“We’ve tight financial budgets. This year, we have a 40 million budget for the North West District, which will shrink. By reducing the policing units to eight, we will be making savings.”
He points out that in light of this change “morale is fine” among his staff, even though there are “genuine fears” due to this period of transition.
“We cannot say what will happen to individual members of staff. We are trying to keep everyone informed of the changes that are being made, and everyone is continuing to do their job.”
The District Commander highlights that a community-based approach is central to his vision of policing, to work hand in hand with local communities and agencies, and to build upon relationships that have been established. Regarding the Magherafelt area, he says “We want to keep it a safe place.”
“We will be looking at every aspect of local policing, and the only thing we won’t change is neighbourhood policing. We want to build upon the solid structures that are in place.”
Chief Inspector Paul Douglas, Area Commander for Magherafelt DCU, points out that the Magherafelt area has the third lowest crime rate for a rural area, and that recent statistics have revealed a significant drop in criminal assaults locally.
He adds that their joint goal is to maintain and build upon this, and also to reduce the incidences of criminal damage in the area – a key challenge over the next year .
“It concerns me that local people are doing this (acts of criminal damage),” he said, “and I would appeal to them ‘This is your area, let’s look after it.’”
Like Chief Supt Russell he too believes that the community-policing partnerships are of paramount importance. “We are looking forward to developing our relationship with communities, to ascertain where there are problems, and to get community watch-groups up-and –running,” he said.
Chief Supt Russell adds that he welcomes the challenges presented by his new post, and of working “not in isolation, but with the people of the Magherafelt area.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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