Northern Ireland’s next police chief felt he had lost his vocation over unfounded bullying allegations and claims that he treated junior officers and staff like “roadkill”.
Simon Byrne, aged in his 50s, left his last employer after his suspension but resurrected his career on Friday when he was appointed chief constable in a policing environment unique in the UK or Ireland.
He will have to balance addressing the real threat posed to his officers by dissident republicans with reaching out to the communities from which the gunmen and bombers spring.
As she announced the appointment, Policing Board chairwoman Anne Connolly urged the enormously experienced officer to develop the force’s community focus and professional approach.
Mr Byrne was suspended as chief constable of Cheshire Constabulary in 2017 after being accused of breaching standards of professional behaviour surrounding authority, respect and courtesy and discreditable conduct.
His contract with the force expired since his suspension.
He said he was pleased to have been “totally exonerated” following the allegations he bullied and belittled staff after moving from the Met Police to take up the top role at the Cheshire force in 2014.
A misconduct hearing was told Mr Byrne had a reputation for being like Darth Vader and treated junior officers and staff like “roadkill”.
The panel heard he handed pictures of Dad’s Army characters to officers after he became angry when flooding made him late for work.
However in its report, the panel found the incident was an example of Mr Byrne’s “approach to leadership” and it was wrong to attribute “malevolent intent” to it.
Afterwards the senior officer said the £350,000 process had gone on too long and wasted precious public money.
He added: “In some ways, it still feels like upside down justice as I have lost my vocation after 35 years of public service.”
Those years began with a spell as a constable with the Met and included a term as assistant chief constable in Merseyside, where he first rose to a more junior command position.
He was in charge of territorial policing at the Met, essentially uniformed police who have closer interaction with members of the public.
He became chief in Cheshire in 2014.
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