Getting Personal: Inspector’s authority carries over to ‘Safer Neighborhood’ program
Stars and Stripes June 27, 2007
Suffolk Constabulary Chief Inspector Stuart Sedgwick is the top cop in western Suffolk, responsible for dozens of officers patrolling the area around RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall. He’s spent 24 years on the force and recently returned to the Newmarket police station, where he began his career.
You’ve recently instituted a new “Safer Neighborhood” program. What is that all about?
It’s part of a drive by the central government to combat crime. We’re trying to focus more on crime that residents perceived to be important.
Suffolk, from my perspective, seems to be an incredibly safe place, compared to other parts of the world. It seems people are naturally law-abiding and orderly, but you still stay busy. Is that a blessing or a curse to police such a safe place?
It’s an interesting topic. National research indicates that the safer the place you live, the higher your fear of crime. So when you live in very safe village, a local theft is big news and it raises big issues.
That seems to run contrary to so many of our natural assumptions, that people in low-income neighborhoods with high crime would fear it the most.
It’s not what one would think, I agree. And it causes us some interesting dilemmas. We have some small villages with virtually no crime, but when you talk to residents, they complain that they haven’t seen a patrol car in the area at night.
How many officers do you have on the beat?
In the Forest Heath area, we have three inspectors, 13 sergeants and 75 constables that patrol Newmarket, Mildenhall and Brandon.
What about your officers not carrying guns? That’s a huge difference from American policing.
We police by consent, which means society allows us to police, and we don’t have to be armed to have authority.
A British police organization recently came out against arrest quotas, saying the quotas were forcing officers to arrest low-level criminals. Do you enforce arrest quotas?
We have no quota requirements. We have personal-performance indicators, but there is no such thing as a quota here. Arrests have to be justified and necessary.