Interview with the new Commissioner of the City of London Police Ian Dyson
Commissioner Ian Dyson took up his post in the City of London on 1st January 2016. Here we learn about the Commissioner’s approach, his views on policing and what the future holds.
What are the key challenges facing policing in the City, and more generally, in 2016?
A concern for all of us and a key priority for the City of London Police, is the threat from terrorism. The threat continues to change and develop and our response to this threat is continually evolving. Whether it’s working with businesses to educate staff to report suspicious behaviour via Project Griffin or increasing the number of officers trained to use firearms, we continue to adapt to meet the challenge. This priority is not going away and we all need to work together to protect the people, businesses and buildings that make up the Square Mile.
The other key priority for the City of London Police is our work around fraud. We lead the UK law enforcement response to fraud and this area of work continues to develop and grow. The best illustration of this is the recent British Crime Survey, which showed for the first time that fraud is the most prevalent crime in the UK. The response to this threat has also grown and the recent announcement by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, about a new Volume Fraud Taskforce shows some of the work we are developing with our partners to help protect victims and reduce the estimated £30 billion cost to the UK.
How will the financial cuts impact day-to-day policing and policing provision in the City of London generally?
Over the past few years we have taken measures to mitigate against the cuts to our funding and this work continues. Over the next few years we will see further pressures on our budget and a lot of work is ongoing to ensure the service we give to the public isn’t reduced in anyway. One example of this is increasing the time officers are out on the street and reducing the time spent in police stations. We will be equipping every frontline officer with tablet so that they can access information on the move without needing to return to a police station.
You started as a police officer in 1983; what are the most significant changes in policing you have seen?
One gradual but fundamental change during my career is the increase in scrutiny of the work the police do. This has been largely a positive move and I welcome feedback from both the public and elected representatives, as policing by consent is the cornerstone of UK policing. I am, however, less happy with the constant use of hindsight in judging decisions made decades ago, often without looking objectively at the environment people had to operate in.
Technology has also brought with it a revolution in policing and most convictions at court now rely on evidence gathered by CCTV or by utilising the latest tools in forensic analysis. But even simple enquiries or routine crimes can now take a long time to administer due to the amount of IT systems used in the criminal justice system. But the fundamental core qualities needed to be a police officer haven’t changed; integrity, professionalism and fairness are fundamental and will continue to be in the future.
What has been the highlight of your career with City of London Police?
I am from a policing background; both my grandfathers as well as my dad were police officers, so being chosen as the fifteenth Commissioner of the City of London Police was a special moment that I will treasure forever. This pleasure is magnified by the pride of being the head of an organisation with such dedicated staff that polices an area as unique and important as the Square Mile.
We need to respect the 177-year history of the force whilst ensuring we meet the present and future challenges.
What do you think the future holds for partnership working between policing and the private sector – for example, outsourcing?
The City of London Police has an excellent track record of partnership working with residents, businesses and other interested parties. We work collaboratively with business to tackle crime and protect the public, and in an increasingly complex world these relationships are growing even more important. One of many examples of this work is our work to help business protect itself against fraud. My staff interview convicted fraudsters to find out how they committed their crimes. This information is then used to inform businesses and organisations so that they can take measures to ensure these crimes can’t be committed again. It is by working collaboratively that we can make mutually beneficial relationships to protect us all.
How do you think partner organisations and the business community can support the police?
We all have a role in protecting each other against the threat from terrorism. We all need to be alert but not alarmed and this means trusting your instincts. If you think someone is acting suspiciously then we need to be called. Together we can protect London, and we know from previous terrorist incidents that terrorists plan these attacks and visit their intended targets in advance of any attack. Connected to this work is our work around Project Griffin.
Project Griffin continues to go from strength to strength and I would ask all businesses and organisations in the Square Mile to get in touch with my officers if they haven’t already done so. These officers go out to give advice on how to protect against a terrorist attack and what to do if an attack took place. Project Griffin was developed in the City of London and is now best practice across the UK.
I value the work of all our partners and partnerships and without them we wouldn’t continue to reduce crime in the Square Mile today. Moving forward, it will be these relationships that will help us tackle the challenges of the future.
What led you to choose a career in policing?
My father and grandfathers worked as police officers and this means that I was very comfortable and aware of the work that policing does. These role models showed me the fundamental principles of public service around professionalism, integrity and fairness, and these stay with me today. Crime and policing has changed considerably in my career but the desire of my officers and staff to deliver a professional service to the public is the same driver that made me want to be a police officer 32 years ago.
What attributes do you think have helped you succeed in your police career?
If you are to be a success in policing you need to be able to make important decisions, often without all the necessary information available to you. This means you need good judgment and the ability to recognise when a decision needs to be made immediately.
Good leadership means empowering your staff to take the decisions necessary to be able to deliver the best service we can. During my four years at the City of London Police we have invested in our leadership programme to ensure this culture is embedded across the organisation and this work continues.
What advice would you give the 18-year-old you, to best prepare for your policing career?
I have had an excellent career and I don’t regret the decisions I made, but I would say to myself to take the opportunities available and don’t get bogged down in rank or role.
Policing is a complex industry and the number of specialisms available to develop your skills and experience is vast. I have had a varied career across three police forces and several different policing disciplines, and it is this experience that helps me as Commissioner today.