New Durham police chief slams moves to parachute 'outsiders' into top jobs

Chief Constable Mike Barton

Chief Constable Mike Barton

First published in News
Last updated
The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Durham)

THE region’s newest police chief has firmly rejected Government moves to bring in top cops from overseas. Mark Tallentire reports.

“IT doesn’t strike me that policing is broken,” says Mike Barton, minutes after being appointed chief constable of Durham Constabulary.

A year ago, perhaps few would have argued.

But the last few months has seen one police officer arrested over alleged leaks linked to the Andrew Mitchell “plebgate” affair, another jailed for offering to sell information to the News of the World and, most damagingly, publication of the damning report of the independent panel on the Hillsborough disaster.

It was perhaps given these developments that when police minister Damian Green suggested opening up police recruitment to overseas applicants, business people and high-flying graduates last month, the idea received a relatively sympathetic welcome.

But if Mr Green persists with the move, he will have a strong opponent in Mr Barton, who was given Durham’s chief constable post permanently today (Monday, February 11), following four months as temporary chief.

“We brought in Gary Ridley (Durham’s assistant chief officer) as part of our top team four years ago,” Mr Barton says.

“He’s not a police officer. He’s an accountant. And we couldn’t do our job without him.

“British policing absolutely brings in people to the top table already. But there are certain jobs in policing where we need police officers.

“Nobody would suggest bringing in a brain surgeon because he’s good with his hands. We should have police officers being police officers.

“I’m more than happy to bring in people where appropriate, but we have to be very careful if we’re bringing in people to run firearms jobs, for example.

“When I command a firearms job, I draw on 33 years of experience – not a book I read last week.”

It’s a stinging response from a man who has spent 33 years learning his trade, firstly in 28 years in his native Lancashire and latterly as assistant and then deputy chief constable in Durham.

“Any police reform has got to be considered seriously. We’ve just been through a seismic six months,” he says, referring to the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

“If people are saying we should bring people in because there’s a dearth of talented chief officers, I’d take issue with that.

“Crime has never been lower. We’ve got the lowest crime rates in 20 years, despite working with fewer staff and on more complex issues.

“It doesn’t strike me that policing is broken.”

The 56-year-old takes a similarly strident stance against suggestions the police should be routinely armed.

“I share an ambition with the PCC (Ron Hogg) and the constabulary to make Durham the best police force on the planet.

“UK policing is the best in the world because we are routinely unarmed,” he emphasises.

“There are small towns in America with more serious crime than County Durham and Darlington. People who say we’ve huge lessons to learn from elsewhere – they’re wrong.

“I care passionately that we remain principally an unarmed police force.

“We police by consent, with consent. If we don’t have that consent, that’s when civil disobedience breaks down and disorder begins.

“The reason why this country is a safe and pleasant place to live is because we’ve got good neighbours and if people see anyone behaving badly they give them a hard stare of tell them to pack it in. That’s what makes Britain a great place to live.”

Mike Barton was born into a farming family in north Lancashire. But he always wanted to become a police officer, he recalls, playing cops and robbers from a young age.

Asked which role he took, he laughs, before replying, diplomatically: “I think we took turns.”

Having missed farming while studying law at Newcastle University in the 1970s, he returned to it after graduating.

But the calling to join the thin blue line persisted and, after flooding damaged the profitability of the farm, he joined Lancashire police.

Mr Barton was head of crime at the force when at least 21 cockle pickers were drowned by an incoming tide at Morecambe Bay, in February 2004.

In Durham, he has led the fight against organised crime, famously pursuing an “Al Capone” approach of prosecuting known criminals for any offence possible.

He is also a devotee of the American-born “broken windows theory” of crime fighting, which suggests if small problems are not deal with quickly, this encourages more serious crime.

The introduction of Police and Communities Together (Pact) meetings to Durham was his idea, for example.

And he is a keen supporter of restorative justice, describing it as a “game changer” in cutting re-offending.

With spending cuts biting across the public sector, Durham Police has faced a 20 per cent budget reduction – and as a result its constable count has fallen from 1,750 to 1,370.

Austerity means police chiefs must challenge the way things have been done, Mr Barton says.

“That’s not to say we’ve got to be revolutionary and throw everything up in the air,” says, “But if we do what we’ve always done but dilute it, the public will lose out.”

Comments (11)

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4:17pm Fri 15 Feb 13

the-big-yin says...

What a bag of b.o.l.l.o.c.k.s.....

If he wants to tackle crime in County Durham then he should have a zero tolerance stance on all drug offences no matter how small they may appear.
Anyone involved in the drug trade should be arrested, charged and then locked up. Plus robberies, burglaries, theft and anti -social behaviour. But no they won-t do that as it involves more work.
It is time to bring in fresh people with new ideas on policing.
Plus get more coppers out on the beat in the communities.........
What a bag of b.o.l.l.o.c.k.s..... If he wants to tackle crime in County Durham then he should have a zero tolerance stance on all drug offences no matter how small they may appear. Anyone involved in the drug trade should be arrested, charged and then locked up. Plus robberies, burglaries, theft and anti -social behaviour. But no they won-t do that as it involves more work. It is time to bring in fresh people with new ideas on policing. Plus get more coppers out on the beat in the communities......... the-big-yin
  • Score: -5

4:37pm Fri 15 Feb 13

Homshaw1 says...

I'm afraid the police has given up on drugs.

I was told if they arrested everyone with drugs in the North Road area they would need high rise prisons
I'm afraid the police has given up on drugs. I was told if they arrested everyone with drugs in the North Road area they would need high rise prisons Homshaw1
  • Score: 2

5:33pm Fri 15 Feb 13

st-george1 says...

Sir Hugh Orde, the president of ACPO, said the problem of Police officers abusing their positions goes to the heart of the lack of trust in them … leave RUNNING THE COUNTRY to the elected-politicians I would say and lets see the police being better managed to enforce law and order on out streets … only the best is wanted.
In my view, austerity also means that the taxpaying public must be able to challenge the way the police do things !
Question is …are the police doing more NOW with less or is it simply the affect of the threat of punishment for failure or redundancy that improves work-rate and absenteeism or less attention to their second job … one thing that applies to us all is that integrity is non-negotiable and is no excuse for using politically motivated arguments in pursuit of brownie-points.
Sir Hugh Orde, the president of ACPO, said the problem of Police officers abusing their positions goes to the heart of the lack of trust in them … leave RUNNING THE COUNTRY to the elected-politicians I would say and lets see the police being better managed to enforce law and order on out streets … only the best is wanted. In my view, austerity also means that the taxpaying public must be able to challenge the way the police do things ! Question is …are the police doing more NOW with less or is it simply the affect of the threat of punishment for failure or redundancy that improves work-rate and absenteeism or less attention to their second job … one thing that applies to us all is that integrity is non-negotiable and is no excuse for using politically motivated arguments in pursuit of brownie-points. st-george1
  • Score: -4

7:26am Sat 16 Feb 13

simmo707 says...

BROKEN BRITAIN UNDER TORIES – CAMERON STICHING BRITAIN UP LIKE A KIPPER
Cameron has now got in place Police Commissioner’s his Political watchdog within the service .
He is now getting his new Justice Bill through its stages to totally sew up any loose ends concerning Democracy as we now know it .The Police Service has been refused the right for strike action but the Police Federation will ballot its members in the near future on the Right to Strike .
What are Cameron/Miliband actually agreeing on with this Bill and why .The pair have already agreed on all the draconian Welfare Rights we had .The Law Society and the Bar Council are opposed to the Bill because it proposes Secret Hearings within Civil Courts solely by Ministerial decree Miliband totally goes along with it because it will cover up all the indiscretions of Blair/Straw now emerging from Libya and over Iraq .It’s a case of you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours hence no opposition on Welfare Reform .We would not get to know about NHS Deaths and many other malpractices .Life in Britian now is just a game between 650 players ,the Public are just a necessary interference to be ignored . www.brokenbritainund
ertories.com
BROKEN BRITAIN UNDER TORIES – CAMERON STICHING BRITAIN UP LIKE A KIPPER Cameron has now got in place Police Commissioner’s his Political watchdog within the service . He is now getting his new Justice Bill through its stages to totally sew up any loose ends concerning Democracy as we now know it .The Police Service has been refused the right for strike action but the Police Federation will ballot its members in the near future on the Right to Strike . What are Cameron/Miliband actually agreeing on with this Bill and why .The pair have already agreed on all the draconian Welfare Rights we had .The Law Society and the Bar Council are opposed to the Bill because it proposes Secret Hearings within Civil Courts solely by Ministerial decree Miliband totally goes along with it because it will cover up all the indiscretions of Blair/Straw now emerging from Libya and over Iraq .It’s a case of you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours hence no opposition on Welfare Reform .We would not get to know about NHS Deaths and many other malpractices .Life in Britian now is just a game between 650 players ,the Public are just a necessary interference to be ignored . www.brokenbritainund ertories.com simmo707
  • Score: 2

9:05pm Sat 16 Feb 13

peter laidler says...

Having aspirations is fine Mr Barton but credit some of us 'out here' in the community with having a little common sense wont you? I think Durham Police Force being quote;"the best on the planet"unquote, must have been a line you used to impress the selectors? Its not before time that the Police Service was overhauled and refreshed. I appreciate your dedication to the service but cant agree with your 'elitist' sentiments. What you should concern yourself with is getting the general public in your domain back on-side. Re-build trust, get bobbies out there engaging with your public. And as far as your working relationship with the crime commissioner goes and just how effective it turns out to be.........well, the jury is still out as far as I am concerned
Having aspirations is fine Mr Barton but credit some of us 'out here' in the community with having a little common sense wont you? I think Durham Police Force being quote;"the best on the planet"unquote, must have been a line you used to impress the selectors? Its not before time that the Police Service was overhauled and refreshed. I appreciate your dedication to the service but cant agree with your 'elitist' sentiments. What you should concern yourself with is getting the general public in your domain back on-side. Re-build trust, get bobbies out there engaging with your public. And as far as your working relationship with the crime commissioner goes and just how effective it turns out to be.........well, the jury is still out as far as I am concerned peter laidler
  • Score: 1

10:33pm Sat 16 Feb 13

greencroftwestendmassive says...

From what I recall, the police don't send people to prison, they send people to court. Its the courts that send people to prison!!

My suggestion, give taser to all police officers, why don't they carry it now??
From what I recall, the police don't send people to prison, they send people to court. Its the courts that send people to prison!! My suggestion, give taser to all police officers, why don't they carry it now?? greencroftwestendmassive
  • Score: 0

10:22am Sun 17 Feb 13

hemmi1 says...

greencroftwestendmas
sive
wrote:
From what I recall, the police don't send people to prison, they send people to court. Its the courts that send people to prison!!

My suggestion, give taser to all police officers, why don't they carry it now??
from what i can see your basic copper is just a thug who love nothing better than a weekend punch up without the fear of being arested themselves as a coach driver i have taken lots of groups of off duty pc s on nights out and they are the worse people you would ever want to meet in drink or sober nothing but arrogent bully boys
[quote][p][bold]greencroftwestendmas sive[/bold] wrote: From what I recall, the police don't send people to prison, they send people to court. Its the courts that send people to prison!! My suggestion, give taser to all police officers, why don't they carry it now??[/p][/quote]from what i can see your basic copper is just a thug who love nothing better than a weekend punch up without the fear of being arested themselves as a coach driver i have taken lots of groups of off duty pc s on nights out and they are the worse people you would ever want to meet in drink or sober nothing but arrogent bully boys hemmi1
  • Score: 0

8:09pm Sun 17 Feb 13

Nicholas_Till says...

simmo707 is quite right about the menace of the Justice Bill, which I gather has passed through the preliminary Committee stage and will soon, presumably, be before Parliament. Henry Porter (The Observer, Sun 17 Feb 2013) describes it well and damningly here:

http://www.guardian.
co.uk/commentisfree/
2013/feb/17/justice-
security-bill-secret
-courts

The media, of course, have kept off this one, preferring to divert us with gay marriage and horse lasagne.

Ken Clarke's the man pushing this one. He's 'Minister Without Portfolio', which frees him up for real long-term skulduggery. An enemy of the people if ever there was one.
simmo707 is quite right about the menace of the Justice Bill, which I gather has passed through the preliminary Committee stage and will soon, presumably, be before Parliament. Henry Porter (The Observer, Sun 17 Feb 2013) describes it well and damningly here: http://www.guardian. co.uk/commentisfree/ 2013/feb/17/justice- security-bill-secret -courts The media, of course, have kept off this one, preferring to divert us with gay marriage and horse lasagne. Ken Clarke's the man pushing this one. He's 'Minister Without Portfolio', which frees him up for real long-term skulduggery. An enemy of the people if ever there was one. Nicholas_Till
  • Score: 1

11:10pm Sun 17 Feb 13

simmo707 says...

Be watching out for Ken Clarke his draconian bill Care in The Community and now this but last Oct a complaint was made against him for sexual abuse by a minor - recently Scotland Yard are Probing Ex Tory Minister over sex claims - there is justice after all or maybe not
Be watching out for Ken Clarke his draconian bill Care in The Community and now this but last Oct a complaint was made against him for sexual abuse by a minor - recently Scotland Yard are Probing Ex Tory Minister over sex claims - there is justice after all or maybe not simmo707
  • Score: 0

11:11pm Sun 17 Feb 13

hemmi1 says...

the new chief constable of durham should be replaced with the roland the rat both give us a laugh but roland can eat newts
the new chief constable of durham should be replaced with the roland the rat both give us a laugh but roland can eat newts hemmi1
  • Score: 0

4:59pm Thu 7 Mar 13

evoke1 says...

Mike Barton is a dedicated and caring Police Officer. He is fiercley protective of the communities he serves and the people that work so hard to protect the public in Durham..He has never lost sight of what really matters and that is trying to make the lives of ordinary people safer. A boss who really cares is a rare breed today .
Mike Barton is a dedicated and caring Police Officer. He is fiercley protective of the communities he serves and the people that work so hard to protect the public in Durham..He has never lost sight of what really matters and that is trying to make the lives of ordinary people safer. A boss who really cares is a rare breed today . evoke1
  • Score: 0

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