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Hi Tarik. Nice to catch up with you. Can you tell us about when you joined Gwent Police and your current role?
I joined South Wales Police in March 1989 as a police officer, covering the Rhymney valley area.
In ‘96, however, the local authority boundary areas changed and I came over to Gwent.
So, I then covered the areas of Bargoed, Rhymney, Ystrad Mynach and Caerphilly before leaving the organisation in 2004 – after fifteen years of service.
But I missed the police service and what working with our communities brings, so re-joined as a community officer in Blackwood in 2012.
So, you’ve got a lot of experience of working across the west policing area in Gwent. How does that experience benefit you in your role as CSO?
Well, I’ve lived in Ystrad Mynach for years, an area I’ve also worked in in the past.
You have that indispensable local knowledge and understanding of local concerns, and a recognisable, friendly face, which I think naturally makes you more approachable to people in the neighbourhoods you work.
I’ve found that when people recognise or know you, or find you approachable, they’re much more likely to trust you with either a report they wish to make or some intelligence they would like to share.
Building trust and relationships is really important to the role.
Has there been an officer, staff member or person in the community who’s had a big impact on you in the past or influenced how you go about your work?
There have been many influential and inspiring people in policing, and my father was an officer back in India actually, but one person I’d like to mention here is someone I met when I was a CSO in Blackwood.
Geoff Jones, an 80-year-old resident in Oakdale, went above and beyond to keep the local square tidy. He’d clean up litter, maintain the green spaces and keep the war memorial in a great condition.
In fact, a lot of his hard work led to awards for the village.
The reason I mention Geoff is that he had an infectious personality and took great pride in where he came from.
You’d see this 80-year-old man, in the middle of winter, walking through the village with a wheelbarrow, stopping to speak to youngsters – a real community man who I’m sure would have been a great CSO in his day!
And that’s how I feel about my role in Gwent. I’m very passionate about giving back to our communities and making Gwent a great place in which to live and work.
Can you share a recent event that perfectly sums up your work?
As with all staff in Gwent Police, we’re here to protect, reassure and disrupt criminal activity.
A typical day often includes patrolling hotspots. By hotspots we mean areas where crimes have been reported a number of times – perhaps parks, bus stations or town centres where we’ve received reports of anti-social behaviour.
The patrols reassure people we’re addressing the things affecting their neighbourhoods and give them the opportunity to speak to us about any concerns they may have. The same for police surgeries we hold in local centres.
We’re intelligence gatherers as well. Information the public give us around things they’ve seen or heard in their towns help inform our response and investigations. That’s why it’s very important we continue to forge positive relationships with the public – so we understand current concerns and respond accordingly.
I currently cover the whole of Torfaen and have recently set up a joint working group in Blaenavon made up of the police, local councillors, residents and volunteers.
By creating community groups like the skateboarding group in Blaenavon, we’re able to divert young people away from things like anti-social behaviour and educate them about how their behaviour can have a huge effect on their town and local families.
While I was happy with how the community and local parents responded to this project, I’ve got to say my skateboarding could do with a bit of improvement!
What do we mean in policing when we say engagement and why is it important to work with partners?
Engagement can be a “policey” term, but it basically means being able to listen to our communities, understand the policing requirement in that area and then respond – through actions and through conversations.
Being approachable is hugely important. We’re here to support police officers, of course, and with our visibility across the county we’re here to reassure people.
We build positive relationships with residents, with partners, to ensure all members of the community feel able to speak to us when they need to. This ensures the force has a good feeling for local sentiment and concerns.
This includes being there for people from all different backgrounds – another thing I’m passionate about.
With my Asian background (my dad was an officer in India in fact) I’m very proud to provide that diverse representation in our force.
Being visible, accessible and accountable is important, as well as being compassionate and providing a link for your community. That’s what I think engagement is all about.