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Meaningful achievements, heartbreaking tragedies, difficult challenges and lots of “hard yards” – just some of the many ways to describe the past 10 years for Leicestershire Police’s Chief Constable Simon Cole.
This Sunday (14 June) marks a decade since Mr Cole took up his current role after moving from Hampshire Police where he had been serving as Deputy Chief Constable.
And while there has been lots to celebrate since that first day back in June 2010, the “nature” of the job means there have also been many testing times too.
“It has been an amazing 10 years working with our diverse communities with some joyful moments but there have also been some extremely difficult times too, “ he said. “And then there is the work we simply do every day. Being a rugby-loving man, I talk about teams needing to do the ‘hard yards’ and we do the ‘hard yards’ every day in the force as we patrol, and have a presence.”
“But the team are fantastic 24/7, whatever the weather, whatever is going on. We’ve got brilliant, brilliant people working with us doing amazing things and what they do every day is constantly a massive motivator for myself and for the rest of the senior team.”
And for Mr Cole himself?
It is hard to believe it has been 10 years,” he said. “It’s something I would never have dreamt of as a kid to be Chief in the place where I grew up. Sometimes now, I still don’t quite believe it is happening!”
While there are many successful events, memories and achievements to recall from the past decade for Mr Cole, some of the most memorable include Leicester City winning the Premier League in 2016 - a moment which saw the whole city coming together to celebrate, and a victory parade attended by 250,000 people.
The reinterment of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral in 2015 was also a unique experience for Mr Cole as a police Chief. “I do say we are the world’s leading police authority on burying medieval kings!” he said.
But there are moments from the past years which will, of course, always be remembered for very different reasons. Mr Cole was on-call at the time of the helicopter crash at the King Power stadium in October 2018, a tragedy which the city will never forget.
An explosion at Hinckley Road which killed five people in February 2018, and later saw three men convicted of murder, was also a heartbreaking time for all at Leicestershire Police who were involved in the response to the incident and the following intense investigation.
“Those times were dreadful and I will never forget being called.” Mr Cole said. “I will never forget those days.
“We investigate serious crime and tragic events and where a crime has been committed, our main aim is always to get justice for the victim and the victim’s families. There are convictions for serious crimes which I’m so, so proud of but I would, of course, always rather that the crime hadn’t happened in the first place.”
Throughout all the policing work which has been done, one major challenge the force has faced as a whole during the past years is austerity.
“Operationally we can respond, we’re trained and we have seen some amazing work carried out with our partners but austerity has been hard and the pace at which it came on made it harder,” Mr Cole said. “We’ve had to reduce and redesign the force under intense financial pressure and that has been hard. When I started, there were 2,300 officers but when I’d been here a few years, there were 500 fewer. To lose that many of your cops, it’s really, really hard. It’s not popular with the public either who, of course, always want to see more policing.”
But, during these times of challenge, there have also been many changes to allow the force to continually adapt to the ever-changing circumstances and demands. This has included changes in kit, the issuing of laptops and handheld devices as well as body worn video.
Collaboration with other forces on major investigations, the rebuilding of police stations, the focus on safeguarding people and the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners are just a few more of the changes seen under Mr Cole’s leadership.
“There are big challenges and changes going forward as well,” added Mr Cole. “We need to constantly be innovative, we need to have integrity and we need to listen. We also need to be prepared to use technology and science in our work and to adapt how we use data. But we need to do all this with our local communities. We are a people business and how we deal with our own people and the public is what does make or break us.”
Throughout all the achievements, the challenges and the changes, there is one thing which will, however, always remain the same for the Chief Constable - the pride of being able to say thank you.
“I get quite emotional about policing, it’s all I’ve ever done,” he said. "I find our award ceremonies profoundly moving when I get to say thank you to people who have done remarkable things. We do thousands and thousands of really good things.
“I had a letter from a family once who wrote about something they were victims of. Basically what they said was this is what happened to us and it was awful and every single person that we dealt with in the force, you should be proud of them. You look at what we achieved in those awful circumstances and the family wanted to say thank you and to make sure that I let all those people know about the service and support which had been provided.
“That is what policing will always be truly about to me.”