Jasmin McDermott caught up with a former Met deputy assistant commissioner, who was at one time Britain's most senior Asian police officer.
During his extensive 34 years in policing, Tarique Ghaffur career’s has been punctuated by a series of firsts – the first ethnic minority inspector and chief inspector and creating the Metropolitan Police’s first serious crime directorate. When he retired in April 2009 he was Britain’s most senior Asian police officer.
Starting as a PC patrolling the streets of Salford in Greater Manchester in 1974 – Mr Ghaffur’s career evolved against a backdrop of continuing social, cultural and political change as he climbed the ranks.
His diverse policing experience, coupled with the specialist skills and attributes built from a long law enforcement career have helped Mr Ghaffur start his own consultancy and security company delivering training and investigations internationally.
Retiring from policing under intense public scrutiny after he made allegations that he suffered racial discrimination, Mr Ghaffur stresses that experience has not tainted his view of the police service.
“My circumstances were not to do with the organisation,” he said. “I have never looked back and thought negatively of the organisation as a whole.”
Mr Ghaffur first came to the UK in 1972 aged 16. He and his family arrived as refugees having been forcibly expelled from Uganda by President Idi Amin.
He joined the newly formed Greater Manchester Police two years later at the age of 18. It was a pragmatic decision - the job did not require him to move away from his family and he was impressed with the pay and conditions. As a new recruit he was one of a handful of officers from a minority ethnic background.
“I came into policing just as a stop gap – to dip my toe in - but very quickly I realised that the variety and the ethos of the service meant there was a career to be made.
“I was very lucky and had every type of business experience and I picked up a lot of different skills and attributes.”
He steadily climbed the ranks and left the force in 1989 to join Leicestershire Constabulary as chief superintendent. He was then appointed assistant chief constable at Lancashire before transferring to the Met in 1999 as deputy assistant commissioner.
“I was able to work in so many unique backgrounds and moving around within policing was absolutely brilliant,” he said.
“That operational grounding where I constantly smelt the coffee on the ground never left me,” he added.
Following his promotion to assistant commissioner in 2001 he set up the Met’s specialist crime directorate with 3,500 detectives.
“At a management level that was a significant milestone thanks to Commissioner Lord John Stevens who had faith in me,” he said. “I watched first hand officers dealing with complex and serious investigations and the professionalism they showed was an amazing learning experience for me.”
However, as time went on, the challenges of the job became more pronounced along with the expectations of being a minority officer and combining that with making a successful policing career.
“The job was consuming in terms of time,” he said. "You are working different shifts and there are challenges over creating a balance in your life which impacts on your family and personal life."
“I was the first minority officer who was an inspector and chief inspector. There was a great expectation on me and that brought with it problems on me as a person. I became a role model.”
In addition to the personal challenges, the broader landscape of policing had shifted, and became more complex and politicised, Mr Ghaffur suggested.
“It got difficult right at the end. Policing shifted from being operationally focused to becoming a kind of political animal – even more so in London.
“In London it became very political – there was a lot of managerial and measured performance and the setting of narrowly focused targets.
“Diversity was a very big issue. It became very complex and quite difficult, and for me I became embroiled in quite a public spat. This made it easier [to leave] because I no longer wanted to be part of the police service."
Following his departure from policing Mr Ghaffur set up a small company – Community Safety Development UK – providing consultancy and technology services around security internationally as well as carrying out niche investigations.
This business venture provided him with a wealth of opportunities – including providing security and law enforcement training for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as well as providing training on community policing to the Institute of Community Police and Policing Sciences in Abu Dhabi.
“I wanted to transfer my knowledge. The 180 years of policing history in the UK is very sought after across the world. I find it very fulfilling as I am assisting in the development of other countries and people and I get to travel the world and see different places.
“Over the years I have brought world renowned policing methods and technology to deal with investigations based on the science of policing.
“Our police service is a very rich tapestry for other countries to dip into – we are very good at making complex things very simple and these countries constantly want our knowledge.”
However, the shift from public service to the private sector highlighted the stark differences between policing and industry, he said.
“The move was very difficult. In policing we are very integrity driven with the Code of Ethics and the codes of conduct. We have roles and processes and there is a notion of right and wrong. Business is very cut throat and you can go to extremes.
“It is easy to build networks, friends and work with organisations in policing. In business there is intense competition. You have to make yourself and your organisation and find the unique selling points."
Leadership skills and operational knowledge have proved to be highly transferrable skills from policing along with an understanding of managing risks and threats.
“We have the ability to deal with crisis situations and our communication skills are brilliant.
“The ethos of hard work and long hours is also a very beneficial skill.”
For those who are about to embark on a career change or are considering moving away from policing, the decision should be heartfelt and people should be ready to move on, Mr Ghaffur advises.
"Don’t go into something immediately – take a long holiday and do things you want to do and get away from your previous routine to help crystalise your thoughts.
"Be confident – the experience you gained is very transferable and you will be surprised how transferable it is."