Met’s new ‘Central East’ commander wants more funding for police in Hackney
- Credit: Mike Brooke
More bobbies on the beat paid for with extra funding could soon be coming to Hackney with the creation of a new police command for east London.
That’s the idea of the Met’s new Central East Commander Sue Williams who takes up the post officially in October.
The new command unit merges Hackney with neighbouring Tower Hamlets, where the local authority already funds 42 police officers to fill the gap from government budget cuts over the past five years.
“We’re looking to do something similar in Hackney which has only funded one officer,” she told the Hackney Gazette. “They are ring-fenced—there’s a contract about that.”
At the other end of the her vision of two-tier policing is a neighbourhood task force responding across the two boroughs to particular incidents.
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“They could be involved in tackling drugs or prostitution which our neighbourhood officers can’t do on their own,” the detective superintendant explained.
“The local ward system still works well with people knowing their local officers. But they will now be backed up by this extra neighbourhood team able to flex across the two boroughs which can respond to any kind of public order incident or where someone gets stabbed.”
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She is one of 12 Met commanders being appointed across London, each heading what effectively is its own police force, but with its “head office” at Scotland Yard.
The new Central East Command, stretching from Stamford Hill and Finsbury Park in the north down to Wapping and the Isle of Dogs in the south, ignores the borough boundary separating Hackney and Tower Hamlets to tackling the serous stuff like drugs, gun crime, murder and organised gangs.
Boundary Road in Shoreditch is now at its centre, rather than the ‘Berlin Wall’ it was before.
Sue Williams, the current Tower Hamlets borough commander for three years, now takes on Hackney as one of 12 ‘super commanders’ in the Met.
But she started humbly as a bobby on the beat in Kilburn after her basic training at Hendon in 1981 where she met her future husband and who, she reveals, “took 10 years before he asked me out on a date”. He has since retired as a police inspector.
They live north of Wembley with their teenage daughter who has “absolutely no intention” of following in mum’s footsteps.
WPc Williams cut her teeth on serious crime in west London getting involved in drugs operations before joining the Central Drugs Squad at Scotland Yard and later Regional Drugs Squad.
“I went from dealing with the low-level dealers to the ‘Premier Division’, the really heavy organised crime stuff,” she recalls.
“Then I was posted to Waltham Forest in 2007 kicking and screaming because it was east London and I didn’t want to go. It was in the wrong area for me.”
But this is where she cut another set of teeth on community work, realising an ability to create working partnerships that made her ideal to mend fences with local authorities.
“The police didn’t have a brilliant relationship,” she admits. “They wanted me to smooth things and get the community back on our side.
“Our senior leadership had been a little fractious and they wanted me to build a new team.”
The new Central East Command is a tough manor, with more knife and street gang crime than other areas of London.
“Nothing shocks me,” she insists. “But I found more violence when I came to East London, more gang crime and unfortunately more murders.
“The first thing I saw was the anti-social behaviour which was out of control. Drugs and gang rivalry sit underneath it.
“What we need is to get the community on board — the crime would take care of itself. Deal with the people involved in street crime, then crime will start coming down on its own.”
She acknowledges Hackney has a gang culture and there is a rise in violence, but overall the average crime rate has gone down by 2.3 per cent, balancing out Tower Hamlets’ crime rate rising by the same percentage.
The new Central East commander is starting off in October with level-pegged crime rate trend that appears to be heading in the right direction.