Retiring police boss: 'Dealing with bike thefts will help us stay relevant'

Det Ch Supt Richard Tucker

Det Ch Supt Richard Tucker is retiring after more than 36 years in policing - Credit: Michael Cox

Newham's police chief Det Ch Supt Richard Tucker is retiring after a career spanning more than 36 years.

He has spent almost five years running the force in the borough - and Waltham Forest - in his role of North East BCU commander.

It is his third spell policing in Newham and he studied at East Ham and West Ham Colleges when he was younger.

Reflecting on his career in a wide-ranging interview with the Recorder, Det Ch Supt Tucker said: "After 36 years, it's not like a job - it's brilliant fun.

"Some of it is very exciting like the car chases, some of it is absolutely heartbreaking."

The police chief, who was awarded the Queen's Police Medal in the 2021 New Year's Honours, said he carries the photos of those who have lost their lives in the borough.

"We've had some tragic cases here but people seem to forget that. I don't."

He mentions the likes of 18-year-old law student Sami Sidhom, who was fatally stabbed yards from his Forest Gate home in 2018, and Baptista Adjei, 15, who was murdered by another teenager on a bus in Stratford in 2019.

"I don't forget the parents I go and see. It's hard, it's really hard," Det Ch Supt Tucker said.

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"It's certainly in the top five most intense places to work in the UK from a policing point of view.

"That's not because there's bad people here. This place is full of decent people and I've worked here long enough to know that.

"All they want is the same as the people who might live in the leafy suburbs - they want to feel safe, they want their families to be safe.

"But when you have deprivation and you have big population growth, you do have that tension."

18-year-old Sami Sidhom. Picture: Met Police

18-year-old Sami Sidhom. Picture: Met Police - Credit: MPS

He was speaking from his office at Forest Gate Police Station, from where he oversees a command of 1,500 officers.

The Met has grown to what it called its highest ever number of police officers in March.

Det Ch Supt Tucker, whose father was also a police officer, believes that the increase in staffing numbers should see police "reengage with people" and thinks the force should refocus on "the warrant card, the power of arrest".

"When people criticise police, they don't focus on the complete nature of our demand. They focus on 'you don't solve crime, you do too much stop and search'.

"That is a small part of our role now."

On the day of the interview, he said his teams were dealing with 16 missing person enquiries.

Five of his officers specifically deal with mental health cases.

"Police have drifted into safeguarding without real design", he said.

"If you ask the people of Newham what they want their cops to do, it's quite basic really. 

"'My bike's stolen - can you come round and pick it up?'

"As an organisation we've drifted more and more away from crime to a 24 hour social, pastoral service.

"I think we're the adult safeguarding agency for London.

"Our police station here at night has people come here because they are having a bad time in their life.

"We deal with it but we've got to realise it takes us away from our job, which as an old detective is arresting bad guys."

For police to remain relevant, the police boss thinks the force needs to "start dealing with the volume crime that affects communities".

He said: "If we dealt with theft of pedal cycles better, we would engage with hundreds of people every month in a far more positive way.

"Give us a couple of years and we will be an awful lot better.

"We've got to start dealing with people's problems and rethink our policing model and how we deal with communities.

"We've got to build up that reservoir of good will we used to have."

The issue of women's safety came to the fore after the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Met police officer Wayne Couzens last year.

The force has introduced measures to tackle violence against women and girls such as Walk and Talks, which give women the chance to walk with female officers and outline their concerns.

Det Ch Supt Tucker, who is married and has a daughter, said: "If you take what women are telling us, they are picking their children up from school, walking down the road and getting a gobful from men.

"What those women want you to do is go down there and square those people up, move them on.

"We need to find our confidence to go and deal with those people because they are a menace."

After aiming to take a couple of months off, the rugby lover has vowed to continue helping youngsters stay away from crime.

Det Ch Supt Tucker, a governor at Campion School in Havering, said: "We've still got too many young men from Newham serving lengthy prison sentences.

"I'm going to do some rugby coaching and hopefully that will take me into some charity work, pastoral stuff for boys who might be on the cusp of making some poor decisions.

"When people say to me what's your plan to reduce gang violence in this part of London, I say everyone's got to play rugby."

He is also planning to spend time with family and visit his parents in Ireland.