PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton to retire

North’s most senior police officer will not take up offer of three-year contract extension

George Hamilton, Chief Constable PSNI. Photograph: PA story

George Hamilton, Chief Constable PSNI. Photograph: PA story


The retirement of the North’s most senior police officer George Hamilton this summer comes after a police career spanning more than three decades.

The 51-year-old from Co Down will step down as Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable when his five-year contract ends after deciding not take up the offer of a three-year extension.

He was the fourth person to hold the role which attracts a salary of some £200,000 (€230,300).

When he took on the role in 2014, he said he became a police officer at the age of 16 “with one ambition, to keep people safe”.

“Policing with the community” was an area of focus for him as part of an ambition for a “safe, confident and peaceful society,” he said at the time.

The senior officer, who has not been so publicly visible in recent times, attracted international media interest for comments he made about the prospect of violence as a response to a Brexit hard border in Ireland.

He has had to deal with the challenge of frequent attacks on his officers and legacy of the Troubles matters, while trying to deliver a modern policing service that attracts the support of all sections of Northern society.

He has repeatedly raised concerns about the lack of devolved government at Stormont, PSNI budget cuts and staffing levels, amid periods of low morale among officers.

Last year, Hamilton and the now Garda Commissioner Drew Harris were cleared of allegations of criminal activity and misconduct in public office, after an investigation by the North’s police ombudsman into complaints over a PSNI bribery inquiry.

Police failings

However, Hamilton has had to make apologies over the years for numerous police failings including mistakes made by police during the on-the-run administrative process (the scheme whereby anyone already convicted of paramilitary crimes became eligible for early release under the Good Friday Agreement); the investigation into the rape allegations by Máiría Cahill; and social media comments where he told a struggling officer to “dry your eyes”.

The married father of four joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) cadet scheme in 1983 and was made a constable in 1985, serving in Belfast and Fermanagh. He was promoted to sergeant in 1990 and inspector in 1994, the same year he was seconded to Britain’s Home Office to develop selection and appraisal systems for policing.

He returned to frontline duties in Belfast and Lisburn in 1997 and from 1999 to 2002 worked on policy to enable the policing reforms recommended in the Patten Report including the PSNI code of ethics.

In 2002 he was promoted to chief inspector and appointed to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Belfast. In 2007 he became chief superintendent. In 2009 he was appointed as assistant chief constable with Strathclyde Police in Scotland.

In 2011 he returned to the PSNI as assistant chief constable and set up the Service Improvement Department. In 2013, he was appointed as assistant chief constable for district policing before his appointment as Chief Constable.