Kingston upon Thames Borough Police Commanders since 2000

The four recent Borough Police Commanders have all been very experienced police officers. For three of them being the Borough Commander in Kingston was, or will be, their last job before retirement. They were not been particularly old as police officers usually retire when they have completed thirty years service. Most joined the police in their twenties and so would have been in their fifties when they retired. As all of them have been exceptionally talented people the two that have retired went on to enjoy post retirement careers in other fields.

Kingston has hugely benefitted from the posting of these very experienced officers to our Borough. They not only brought us excellent policing skills but also had a very profound understanding of what makes communities function well. They were all able to contribute, in their own unique ways, to help resolve the social problems that they found in the community. Because for most of them this was to be their last police posting the Borough Commanders have had a special ethos. We once heard an officer say that they had been privileged to have enjoyed excellent careers that had given them wonderful opportunities and experiences. Now ‘it was time to pay back the community’. As a result of their work Kingston is a better place in which to live.

We have been able to write this article because a number of our members have served on the Kingston Community and Police Partnership (KC&PP) for many of years. The KC&PP organisation has approximately sixty affiliated Kingston social groups who are able to send delegates to a number of meetings each year with the Borough Police and Fire Brigade Commanders. One of our Vice chairmen, Mr Jim Taylor has shown outstanding dedication by serving on the KC&PP for twenty seven years.

Chief Superintendent Jeff Brathwaite

Jeff Brathwaite made contact with the minority and ‘hard to reach‘groups in the community and brought them into positive contact with the Police. This was at a time when the Met was undergoing racialism awareness training for all of its officers. He had a very even handed approach to everyone and created a number of advisory groups in the community to ensure that the Police kept in touch with as many social groups as possible. He was a very open person and a good communicator, prepared to have a go at answering difficult social questions. He was a much loved person, which seems a strange thing to say about a Police Officer. At his farewell KC&PP meeting all of the delegates present lined up to shake his hand and there were a few damp eyes.

 

Chief Superintendent Angela List

Angela List was a very tough and efficient lady who during her career had been an armed Police Officer in the diplomatic protection squad and a royal bodyguard. Mrs List was a woman of many achievements. She took the first significant initiatives to reign in the excesses of the Kingston night club customers. This was done by working with the Council to enforce licensing arrangements and to regulate the flood of new license applications. Pub watch and similar schemes were set up to stop drunken or anti social behaviour. The night clubs and pubs were brought into line. She very effectively policed Kingston during the night and began putting in place the complex arrangements that now exist in order to get the thousands of often drunken night clubbers safely on their way home. During her period of command she organised the introduction of Safer Neighbourhood Police Teams in each ward of the Borough. Toward the end of her time with us she made a speech at a passing out parade of new constables who had done most of their training at Imber Court and in Kingston. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police was present. She said that the introduction of Safer Neighbourhood Policing was the most important and the best innovation in London’s policing that had occurred during her career. Mrs List was definitely the right type of Borough Commander that Kingston needed at that time.

Chief Superintendent Laura Nicholson

Laura Nicholson was the youngest Borough Commander that we have had in recent years. She was a talented high flyer mid way through her career. Earlier in her police service she had worked in some very tough inner London boroughs before working at Scotland Yard.  When we knew her she was a very experienced, very competent and very humane officer. In pure policing terms she was a good manager and leader. For example we had a presentation from the Burglary Squad and were very impressed with their great achievements and high morale, which was in part Laura’s work. She had a talent for enthusing people and getting them to work together. In her time the Police, the social workers, The Youth Offending Team, the Council and civic groups all came together for the benefit of the community. At the beginning of 2008 she wrote “One of our priorities this year will be to focus on the service we provide as a policing organisation. The focus will be on the ‘citizen’ and how satisfied our customers are with the service we provide. In order that we can understand and respond to the needs of the local residents of Kingston we urge you to engage with residents associations, community groups, neighbourhood watches and Safer Neighbourhood Teams. Your views and opinions will be important in how we deliver our service over the forthcoming year”. You cannot delay the career of good people and all too soon she was off to Bramshill Police College for a senior officer’s course. After that she left the Met to become the Deputy Chief Constable of the Hampshire Constabulary.

 

Chief Superintendent Martin Greenslade  (Our Current Borough Commander)

Mr Greenslade has been the most experienced senior officer that we have had as Kingston’s Borough Commander. He had already been the borough commander in Bexley before spending a period working in the top floors at New Scotland Yard. Those positions had given him not only a lot of Borough policing experience but also a keen understanding of the working of the Met at the most senior levels. Which was just as well, because here in Kingston he has faced a large number of very difficult problems.

We saw his good qualities from the first day he spent in Kingston. He was up before the lark so as to go out on patrol with the first shift of the day. In his first speech to the KC&PP he said that he would not tolerate drug dealers. We decided that we liked him. Then his problems started. Soon after his arrival the Mayor of London started cutting the Metropolitan Police budget by four percent year on year. After four years that has ratcheted up a twenty percent cut in the police budget and now a further £50 million is to be cut by 2015!  Such a steep cut in funding inevitably caused problems. The police have saved a lot of money by consolidating back office jobs but we all know that the brilliant solutions proposed by management consultants put enormous strain upon those tasked with bringing them about. Then there was the moratorium on recruiting new police officers for nearly two years. That was followed by a rush to quickly increase the numbers of officers again which was done by taking four hundred PCSO’s for training to be constables.  That was followed by a decision from the Mayor’s office not to recruit any more PCSO’s. He had to cope with the policing of the Olympic Games. This required some of our officers to be detached months in advance of the actual games, some to prepare the security at Stratford, some to police central London as the Commissioner wanted a crime free city for the games. When the police work excessively long hours of duty as they did during the summer they accrue a lot of time off in lieu or as leave, consequently the manning problems continue for considerable periods after major events. This meant that for many months during the past year Martin had to police the Borough with a significantly reduced work force. While all of this was happening Kingston suffered the attentions of gangs of foreign burglars, and probably many more problems that we do not know about. The last three years must have been like living through a long nightmare for Martin and we are amazed that he has survived so well.

He has not only taken all of these problems in his stride but has also made some considerable achievements. The main one is that the Kingston Police station is being refurbished to bring it up to a good standard and the custody suite is being rebuilt with more than double the number of cells. This should ensure we retain a police station in Kingston for the foreseeable future.  Throughout this difficult period he has been a good communicator, keeping the community informed of what was happening and always stating that he would ensure we had a good level of policing.

Why we think that we need our own Borough Commander in Kingston

We hope that these short biographies illustrate the unique and beneficial contribution that each of the last four Borough Police Commanders have made to Kingston life. That contribution could only have been made by their concentrated focus on the town’s problems and their engagement with the community. This is also cost effective policing because an experienced commander dedicated to shaping the boroughs police response to current or anticipated problems will always bring about the most effective and efficient police solution. The proposed Basic Command Units, which will have one commander for at least two boroughs with deputies in each borough, is too lax a management structure. It risks us losing the clear focus and determined decision making that has been such a benefit to Kingston. We think that our Borough, which has a population of over 165,000 residents, which has a major shopping centre and night time economy drawing in thousands of visitors each day, and which covers a large geographical area, is best served by having its own Borough Police Commander.

 

Francis Brannan, Secretary,

Chessington District Residents’ Association.                                         November 2012.