Annie Redmile is one of those tireless enthusiasts every community needs: we are fortunate to have her in Kensington & Chelsea. She is Founder of Active Link - 'Connecting Local People in Kensington and Chelsea'.
On another occasion The Dame will be spending more time on the plans Annie has for Active Link.
However, for the immediate moment, this important letter to the Met Commissioner deserves our close attention.
AN OPEN LETTER
To: Commissioner Bernard Hogen-Howe, Metropolitan Police
I write to you as an individual who has just spent more than 18 years working with the Metropolitan Police in Kensington and Chelsea. I have chaired a Police and Community Working Group for that length of time and have also served as a member of the Executive of the Community and Police Engagement Group.
I took a decision a couple of months ago that I could no longer continue with this work. I agonized over this decision and I think it is important that I tell you why - and also relate some of my very real concerns about policing and the community here.
I am sending you an ‘Open Letter’ because I want to share my concerns with others, who care also about the need for a strong working relationship between the police and the community in this borough.
Over the years there have been ‘changes’ to adapt to and new people to get to know. That is only to be expected in a working relationship with a complex organization like the Metropolitan Police. But, the pace of change is now too fast in both operational terms and in personnel. I believe that this approach is undermining the valuable working relationship that has existed here between the police and our community.
I had decided that that it had been a ‘change too far’ when a decision was taken – at a level of command outside of the borough – to move Superintendent Simon Rose who was responsible for partnerships and community relations. He had been in the borough for a relatively short time but had achieved some outstanding results in both communications and community relations.
In fact, Superintendent Rose is quite the best senior officer I have ever worked with in the area of communications and community relations. My background is in journalism and communications and I was doing some valuable work with him that may now go to waste.
Having initially said that I would work through to the end of the year, I then became aware that Chief Superintendent Jason Gwillim would no long be our Borough Commander. Both departures have stirred strong feelings across Kensington and Chelsea – most particularly recently with the departure of Chief Superintendent Jason Gwillim.
He is quite the best Borough Commander that I have worked with in my 18 plus years. And he is one of eight over that period!
I would appreciate it if you would place my comments on record, and convey to these two officers my thanks and appreciation for their commitment and work in this borough. I know that they both commanded a great deal of respect from individuals and community groups right across Kensington and Chelsea – and also from the officers who served under them.
This account goes right to the heart of one of my most serious concerns – and I know others share it – lack of continuity. Another example, I have worked with nine Sector Inspectors in this period. People in the area have come to know that I ‘work with the police’, and will quite often approach me, as an intermediary, with their concerns. They have no idea who to approach within the police itself – and they will no longer be able to talk to me!
I could go on, but suffice it to say, I believe the ‘partnership’ police have with their community should be valued, appreciated and made proper use of.
The police should also be cautious about making grand promises –albeit with good will – with every new initiative. I applaud the sentiment, but there is seldom notice taken of context and history. And, seldom does meaningful consultation take place with the communities – residential and business – that you serve.
It is clearly and sympathetically accepted by the people of London, at least many of us, that changes have to be made and costs reduced. There is perhaps too little awareness of the huge responsibility placed on the police today - and the details of a seemingly constantly expanding remit. But, that is exactly why you should ‘work with’ committed members of the community who, and it is marked in this borough, have great knowledge and skills that can be called upon and relied on.
I referred to the fact that I agonized over my decision to step down – and I did – but I still care very much about our policing and I have written to you on that basis.