Paddick & Lambeth
The grandson of a policeman, Brian Paddick grew up in South London. He joined the Met in 1976, as a PC in Holloway. Progressing through the ranks, he gained operational experience in Brixton (at the time of the 1981 riots), Lewisham, Notting Hill and Merton, in both uniformed and CID roles. He also held staff posts (in Personnel and Training, Management Development and Inspection and Review) at both borough level and within Scotland Yard.
Paddick holds a first degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University and a Masters in Business Administration from Warwick. At Oxford, he was Captain of the University Swimming Team and Vice-Captain of his college’s Rugby team.
At the end of 2000, Brian Paddick was promoted to the rank of Commander prior to moving back to Brixton to take charge of Lambeth’s policing. In achieving this rank, Paddick became the most senior, openly gay policeman in the country. In this respect, he became a high profile figure in a service striving to reflect the diversity of the communities it supports. He also became a target for bigots.
A Breath of Fresh Air
For all the well-rehearsed historical reasons, Lambeth has a long history of uneasy relationships between the police and the local community. It also has a history of innovations in police-community relations, many of which stem from the landmark Scarman Report. Many in Lambeth, with years of experience in working with the police, declared Paddick to be a “breath of fresh air”.
Here was a senior policeman spending long evenings in draughty school halls engaging with communities and who was seen regularly on the borough’s High Streets, putting his case and listening thoughtfully. From within the service, tales emerged of a “top cop” who did his share of night shifts and who took it on himself to break bad news to often distraught families.
The cannabis trial was just one further example of an open, accessible and innovating policing style. It sought to meet an operational constraint by going with the grain of local priorities which place crack, heroin, guns and street crime well ahead of cannabis. Here was an opportunity for the police and the community not simply to work together, but to learn together.
Urban75 is a Brixton based, not for profit eZine (an internet magazine). It is one of the busiest and best produced on the web. Its bulletin boards are lively with debate ranging from globalisation and free trade to the best greasy spoons south of the river.
A particularly disruptive poster joined the boards in February 2002, claiming to be a Brixton policeman and heaping insults on the local people. He was followed by “Brian:The Commander”, who sought to publicly repudiate this character who (it appeared) was indeed a Brixton policeman.
Having established his credentials, Paddick went on to defend the police and argue the case for policing and the law. In one exchange, with a self styled anarchist, he said:
“The concept of anarchism has always appealed to me. The idea of the innate goodness of the individual.........It is a theoretical argument but I am not sure everyone would behave well if there were no laws and no system. ...Eradicate all injustice and discrimination - would that stop all people damaging and harming each other - I am not sure. If there were still people who would continue to exploit and harm others, how would you stop such injustice if you had no system, no society?”
The words of an anarchist or a policeman arguing his corner? Judge for yourself.
The “anarchist cop” jibe added to a potent mix which the tabloid press could not resist. The Daily and Sunday Mail, egged on by the Sun, exploited every prejudice to feed their readership a nightmare picture of “lawless Britain”. Their coverage was by turn homophobic (a gay cop), racist (Brixton), reactionary (there can be no new initiatives on drugs) and political (scheming anarchists in looney left Lambeth).In that respect it was true to type.
But it broke new ground in being a disgraceful, personal attack on a public servant, not a politician. It culminated in the purchase of allegations of professional misconduct against Brian Paddick. The Met had no choice but to investigate the allegations. We are advised that in seconding Paddick to another post (his deputy is “acting up” in Lambeth) rather than suspending him, the Met took the very least action open to them.
On March 18, Brian Paddick temporarily left Lambeth to take up duties at Scotland Yard. The response in Lambeth was unprecedented >>
“Brian Paddick is one of the most radical and innovative police officers I’ve ever worked with. Everybody in the borough wants him back”
Harriet Smith, Director, Lambeth Crime Prevention Trust (Observer)
“The trial has been an undoubted success”
Deputy Commissioner Ian Blair, Met
“So, he used the net. So what? Time was the Chief Constable always joined the Golf Club, the Round Table or even the Masons.
This guy’s open about who he talks and listens to. Tens of thousands visited that site”
Jim T Lambeth Resident
“The bottom line is, screw the dealers, help the addicts.....Don’t damage my community”
Brian Paddick on Urban75
“What has my sexuality to do with running Lambeth’s police service?”
Brian Paddick on the Today programme
...the kind of cross-community gathering local politicians would give their right arm for - cheering Commander Brian Paddick, the officer who has shaken up the very concept of policing...
Did you participate in the Urban75 debates or have you followed the issue in papers? Who do you want running your borough’s policing? Have your say in Lambeth Talk?
“No two cities, neighbourhoods or communities are exactly alike. They have shared problems, but they also have unique problems. Community policing and its ability to allow and require community input into police prioritisation and focus of resources.... is simply a better and more effective way to police in a democracy.”
Bill Bratton, ex-Head of New York Police Dept., addressing senior British police officers (Police Federation Magazine, March 2002)