New police chief's first day

IT IS always difficult to know what to do on the first day in a new job - but Simon Ash knew exactly what he needed to do on his first day in Suffolk.

IT IS always difficult to know what to do on the first day in a new job - but Simon Ash knew exactly what he needed to do on his first day in Suffolk.

“I had to go along to the magistrates, just like all new constables, and be sworn in as Suffolk's chief constable. That emphasises that this is an ancient title with real responsibilities,” he said.

Mr Ash has moved to Suffolk after serving as Hertfordshire's deputy chief constable.

And he is under no illusions about the challenges facing him in his new role.

According to official figures, Suffolk is the safest county in England - although it is not immune from all types of crime.

That was highlighted at the end of last year with the deaths of five women and the murder of Jimoh Plunkett in a shooting at the Zest nightclub.

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Mr Ash is beginning his new job at the end of a turbulent time for police forces after the abortive attempts to merge them into larger bodies.

However, he accepts that some of the lessons learned over the last two years will have to be absorbed into remaining county forces, like Suffolk, in the future.

Mr Ash said: “The merger proposals came as the result of a report looking into how forces dealt with major crimes like murder and terrorism, and established that some of the smaller forces did have difficulties with these kind of issues.

“The initial response was structural - looking at creating larger forces - but now that has changed and we are looking at other ways of pooling resources.”

The events at the end of last year showed mutual aid from other forces could help a comparatively small police organisation in even the most testing circumstances.

Mr Ash said: “That was a situation in which other forces immediately offered help but what will probably emerge now is a structured approach towards co-operative working between forces on a range of serious enquiries.”

But while serious crime such as violence or terrorism is a concern, Mr Ash was keen not to lose sight of the fact that it is low-level crime and anti-social behaviour that can cause as much concern to the community as a whole.

He said: “I think it is very important to have a visible police presence and for people to know and trust the officers who work in their own community.

“Yesterday I finished my first day in Suffolk at the Ipswich Neighbourhood Watch meeting and I am very keen that we should work together to make people feel safer.

“It is one thing to be able to say Suffolk is the safest county but we also have to ensure people feel safe here.”

Mr Ash has four basic principles for community policing - that police should be available to deal with the public, preferably on a face-to-face basis, police should listen to the concerns of people who talk to them about an issue, issues should be dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible, and police should go back to the people who originally raised an issue and tell them what has happened.

He said: “The last point is something that can sometimes be overlooked by busy people in whatever walk of life, but I feel it is important so people now that we have dealt with an issue.”

But he warned that the next few years could be tough for police managers.

“Suffolk is a good force. Recent figures showed that crime had fallen over the last year and detection rates had gone up.

“Of course I shall work very hard to ensure that continues but there are challenges. The last few years have seen more money coming to the police but that has just changed and there could be new challenges associated with running the force on a tight budget.”

N What should Mr Ash's priorities be in Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

FastFacts: Simon Ash:

N He is 46 years old.

N He was born in Kent and joined the county constabulary after studying at Cambridge university.

n He moved to Hertfordshire in 2001 as assistant chief constable before being promoted to deputy chief.

N He is married to Lorraine and has two children, Jack, 13, and Grace, 11.

M The family is buying a new home in Suffolk and hopes to move here during July.

M He is a keen football fan and is a season-ticket holder at Cambridge United.

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