What policing in Chiswick is really like – Sergeant Jim Cope and PC Durr-e-Maknoon Tariq

Image above: PC Durr-e-Maknoon Tariq and Sergeant Jim Cope

As the Metropolitan Police faces severe difficulties recruiting new officers, The Chiswick Calendar asks two of our local officers what makes them do the job

Sergeant Jim Cope has been a Metropolitan Police Officer for 25 years, while PC Durr-e-Maknoon Tariq joined the force just two years ago. Jim is in charge of the ‘Safer Neighbourhood’ team that polices Chiswick and Durr-e is one of his officers, based in Riverside ward.

Jim and Durr-e talked to The Chiswick Calendar about why they chose to be police officers, how policing in London has changed and the challenges they face preventing crime in Chiswick. Both say despite all the dangers and frustrations of being a police officer, they love their jobs.

Jim has spent most of his career working with emergency response teams in Kentish Town and Camden. He was the first officer on the scene of the 7/7 bombings at Kings Cross in 2005, when a bomb went off on a Piccadilly line train just after it had left the station, one of four detonated by suicide bombers on London’s transport network, which killed 52 people and injured over 770 others.

He received the Commissioner’s High Commendation for bravery for what he did that day, giving immediate care to people coming up from the train, and entering the Underground to recover victims from the tunnels between Kings Cross and Russell Square.

“We all turned up for the night shift the next night. We didn’t realise how much it does affect you.”

He is now a great advocate for talking things out:  “After all the adrenalin it’s good to talk. I believe in it.”

One of his officers in Chiswick saved a man from suicide when he jumped off Kew Bridge, only to find him dead in his flat a year later, by his own hand, and he was devastated.

“Sergeant is good at recognising when something is wrong” said Durr-e.

Image above: PC Durr-e-Maknoon Tariq and Sergeant Jim Cope

“There is a need for people of my generation to come into policing” – Durr-e

This is Jim’s second stint in Chiswick. He has been solely concentrated on this area since June, which is when Durr-e also started working here.

She has not encountered anything quite so traumatic as yet, but has dealt with violence from drunks and prisoners.

“Your training kicks in and it works” she said.

She has also encountered racism and persecution. Her family came to Britain from Pakistan as refugees.

While Jim did not go to university, Durr-e has a degree in Pharmacology and Molecular Genetics from Kings College and an MSc in Bioarchaeology at Bournemouth University. Why would you choose the Metropolitan Police, when you planned to spend your life studying the organic remains from archaeological sites to address questions about evolution?

“I sort of fell into policing” she said. She planned to study for a doctorate, but she is one of that generation of graduates who has decided they were fed up with being cooped up under Covid and wanted to get out into the world and start doing things rather than locking herself away for further study.

“I wanted to do something that involved being outside the house.”

Durr-e has joined the Metropolitan Police under the ‘Police Now’ scheme for graduates, which is the police equivalent to ‘Teach First’ in education, a fast track scheme which allows for a career break so officers can keep their options open.

Image above: Police Now advertisement

Metropolitan Police under greater pressure and scrutiny than ever before

“I came across the Police Now scheme and spoke to the recruitment officers, who said with my science background I had the right sort of investigative mind to be a detective.”

She has already done a placement with the Home Office policy team for violence against women and girls and she hopes to train as a detective once she has put in her time and earned her chops as a Police Constable, ticking of a set of ‘frontline operational competencies’.

I asked about the Met’s reputation. Did it not put her off that the Met was under intense scrutiny following a series of scandals including the murder of Sarah Everard, the strip-search of Child Q and officers being caught exchanging racist, sexist and homophobic messages?

Her friends were wary, she said, but once she explained her motivation and described her experience with the Met so far, which she said had been positive, they have come to accept it.

“There is a need for people of my generation to come into policing. My parents are fine with it.”

Jim pointed out that the barrage of news stories about Metropolitan Police officers being charged with everything from murder and rape to sexual misconduct and fraud (100 police officers have been dismissed for gross misconduct in the last 12 months) can be seen in one of two ways.

Yes there is a lot of behaviour by police that should not be tolerated, but for those cases to be known about publicly, to have come to court or for the officers to have been sacked means their colleagues have given witness statements against them. Their behaviour has not been tolerated in the force.

Image above: The now closed Chiswick Police Station

Policing much harder without a local police station

I asked Jim what were the biggest changes he had seen in 25 years on the force. Without hesitation he said it was the amalgamation of divisions and the introduction of the Basic Command Units (BCUs).

Chiswick is now part of the West Area BCU, covering the three boroughs of Hounslow, Hillingdon and Ealing. In the absence of a police station in Chiswick, the response teams which cover this area are based in Feltham. The Safer Neighbourhood team is based in Acton, with one car between them.

The orthodoxy is that this has not affected response times but it is quite clear this has made policing much harder. Emergency response times for Hounslow in 2021 were on average 11.7 minutes for an ‘immediate’ emergency and an hour and 46 minutes for a “significant” emergency.

Other crimes don’t seem to get much of a look in. It is a constant complaint from the public that “the police do nothing”, be it shoplifting, street robbery or drug dealing in plain sight. I put it to Jim that neighbourhood policing seems to be the worst of all worlds at the moment – criminals can easily spot them coming, but members of the public who witness or are victims of a crime can’t get hold of them when they’re needed and the community police are just left wandering aimlessly about.

There is the odd ‘cuppa with a copper’ advertised, but I asked him why they had no base in Chiswick. Why aren’t they at the library, where Hounslow councillors hold their surgeries, or at a café or pub at the same time every day?

It’s complicated, he says. First of all there is all the gear they carry, which they can’t take off or put down anywhere that is not a properly safeguarded building. They always wear heavy body armour, the bullet and stab proof vest and a hat. They carry a radio and body camera, handcuffs, a baton, a torch, medical gloves and a ‘PAVA’.

A PAVA is an incapacitant spray similar to pepper spray. Legally it is counted as a Section 5 firearm and it if isn’t on their person it has to be locked away. You can’t just put it down on the table in a café while you have a cup of coffee.

They need the usual business equipment of mobile phones and laptops with chargers and have to have somewhere to store documents.

Then there is the issue of their personal safety. They are too exposed if the public can find them at the same time at the same place every day, unless they are in a properly safeguarded building. We used to have them. They were called police stations, but in their absence there is nowhere police officers can use as a regular base.

The Safer Neighbourhood team in Chiswick is supposed to be nine strong – two PCs and a PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) in each of Chiswick’s three wards. On paper the team is now at full strength, though in practice one PC is not on active duty and two of the PCSOs work part time.

Jim would like to see his team “totally ring-fenced from other distractions.” Because of the difficulty the Met has faced in recruiting new police officers, they have had problems filling the emergency response rotas and have borrowed staff from other teams to cope.

He would also like to see them better able to respond when something happens.

“As a police officer visibility is key. I would like for us to have some kind of base in Chiswick. The community want it. We are able to be more responsive when we’re visible. We need to go back to basics more. I think we are heading in that direction.”

Image above: Chiswick’s former police station

“Now you have to be more mindful about making an arrest” – Jim

When they do carry out an arrest they whole process takes officers much longer than it used to because of the lack of proximity of a police station. The Chiswick Calendar has had emails about the lack of action when drug dealers deal openly in the streets. Apparently arresting them is not as simple as it might look.

“It took us 14 months to get a Possession with Intent to Supply conviction. You have to catch them with the weight and quantity to meet the criteria, and to get a digital download of their transactions.”

Jim and Durr-e took me through the process of arresting shoplifter Kelly Ann Moore recently. After the arrest there is the whole process of transporting and booking someone in, which happened three times in her case, as she did not show up at court on the first two occasions.

“The first time she was arrested at 4.30pm. We waited for a van – an hour or more is standard. We had to go to Wembley to charge her as that was the nearest custody suite available.

“You have to wait in custody. There are technical issues – sometimes you interview them yourself, sometimes you hand it over to another officer. You have to wait for the custody sergeant, get the case file, sometimes you need to find an appropriate adult, a solicitor…”

It was 2am by the time Jim picked her up in the team’s one and only car. (Ubers are not insured to carry firearms. If they get on a night bus they are likely to pick up more work on the way home and end up working all night).

When she failed to appear in court a warrant was issued for her arrest. Another officer, Sam Allo found her again, and by this time she had picked up another eight charges. This time they had to go to Wandsworth police station to book her in.

When it happened a third time she was taken to Polar Park police suite at Heathrow.

“I had to wait for a solicitor and it was 4am by the time we were finished” said Durr-e.

“When I used to be on Camden High Street it would take me about 30 seconds to get them back to the station. Now you have to be more mindful about making an arrest,” said Jim.

I asked if working in the Safer Neighbourhood team was seen as a more cushy option than working on a response team.

“Not a bit of it” said Jim. If anything it’s a rougher route. You are thrown in at the deep end. When I was working a response team there was never any need to ask the sergeant anything as you were surrounded by officers with 20 years experience. Now pretty much everyone on my team has three years experience or less and they are out on patrol either on their own or with a PCSO.

But it’s worth it?

“It’s a vocation” said Jim.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar