New police commissioner goes back to Paddington stomping ground

Metropolitan police boss recalls his first ever arrest 30 years ago

While 1982 is best known for events such as the Falklands War, the hit film ET and the release of the best-selling album ever, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, one police officer remembers the year for time he spent learning his trade on the streets of Paddington.

Simon Byrne was just out of training when he started his career patrolling around Praed Street and Edgware Road. Two years were spent responding to emergency calls and protecting the residents of the area before he moved away from London.

But 30 years on, the newly appointed Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, who is now in charge of 20,000 officers, re-visited his old stomping ground for a trip down memory lane.

“I did two years around here and they were really happy times,” he said. “The place doesn’t seem to have changed that much.

“There has always been a very diverse community because there’s a bit of everything. Some of the wealthiest people live right next to some of the poorest.

“It was a fascinating place to learn and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learnt the craft of policing, which I have used ever since.”

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While Assistant Commissioner Byrne now oversees every local police officer across London’s 32 boroughs, the walk around Paddington last Thursday sparked memories of his first ever “proper” arrest 30 years ago.

“It was an afternoon shift and I was on the corner of Edgware Road and Sussex Gardens,” he said. “I heard a scream and saw a distressed woman with a man running away from her.

“I gave chase and he obviously wasn’t from the area because he ran round the back of the Tube station and came out right in front of Paddington Green police station, where he was greeted by a bunch of officers.

“That was my first proper arrest and he was charged with robbery.”

Having undertaken stints in Merseyside and Greater Manchester, the new assistant commissioner is in the perfect position to assess the changes in community policing over the decades.

“Thirty years ago it was a completely different style of policing,” he said.

“There weren’t the different layers we have now. We didn’t have the technology available to us and the model of policing was quite basic. Now there are lots of specialisms that have been created, with more expertise.

“The challenge is to get the balance right between that and having officers on the streets, because that’s what the public tell us they want.”