Ali Dizaei Talks to

Controversial Borough Commander Gives His Views on Local Policing

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Phone tapping, corruption allegations, airport screening, Hounslow’s Borough Commander Ali Dizaei is never far from the national headlines but his views on local issues receive much less publicity.

Once tipped to be the first Black chief constable Iranian born Dizaei worked his way through school and university to qualify as a barrister and earn a PhD in his spare time. But his status as a Met high-flier was dashed in 2001 when he was suspended accused of using drugs and prostitutes, taking bribes and even of being a threat to national security.

Following a two year battle to clear his name, Dizaei was reinstated and subsequently appointed Borough Commander in 2005. Unorthodox in his appearance, residents could be forgiven for not spotting him in his causal attire although, he assures me in no uncertain terms, that he is habitually there. Indeed Chiswick was his home until very recently but the personal move has had no bearing on his determination to be omnipresent.

“I am in Chiswick every day and once a fortnight I drive a response car to experience first hand the issues of my officers on the street” he says “It’s only by doing this that I can appreciate the frustrations that they face and be able to do something about them. I read recently that the thing that staff really want from their leader is to know that they care. That made a lot of sense to me.”

Dizaei sees as a key method of not only keeping the community abreast of crime in their neighbourhood but also in seeking their help in catching and securing convictions of the perpetrators. One of the first things that the media savvy Dizaei implemented was to hand the responsibility of communicating with the community to the Officers on the street. Although not yet a seamless system, a recent request by Safer Neighbourhood Officer Liz Huggins which was published on the site solicited more than 50 responses from members wishing to give their views on the groups of teenagers that congregate outside McDonalds on the High Road.

He says “The main issues in Chiswick are anti social behaviour, street crime and residential burglaries. We have made significant inroads in improving our detection rates in all of these areas. But we also have to meet nationally set targets and Hounslow is the only borough in London to have achieved and exceeded their targets. Crime is down by 4% due to the commitment throughout the ranks and of course help from the community.”

Dizaei goes on to talk about how Chiswick has benefited from significant investments since his appointment in terms of senior and street level personnel (a recent survey carried out across borough’s staff determined that they wanted senior officers to be more visible), undercover personnel, CCTV (most recently in Turnham Green Terrace) and dome hawk cameras (transferable cameras that are hidden from public view).

“You can’t solve crime simply with bobbies on the beat, you need a mix of overt and covert personnel. People don’t see them and there’s no point advertising them! But believe me they are there working hard. Successful policing needs more than scarecrows on the street.”
Although he undoubtedly has his eye on the ball with local issues, Dizaei features regularly in national headlines, indeed his book entitled Not One of Us, will be published next month.
“My public profile is both a help and hindrance.” He explains without condescension “Because of who I am, I am able to get senior level Met officers (including the Commissioner) to come to Hounslow and see the great work my officers are doing. Hounslow is not a priority borough for the Met but I work hard to make sure that my officers receive the recognition they deserve. And what borough commander wouldn’t want to get their good results in the Sunday papers like I can? But I am committed 12 hours a day to Hounslow, the Radio Four and Newsnight appearances are on top of the day job which is dealing with the here and now.”

“I am working on a new initiative that will give my officers a greater understanding of ethnic minorities. Do you know that 150 languages are spoken in across Hounslow and that we have the largest Sikh population outside Punjab? You can read about other cultures but to really understand them you have to live them. I am looking into moving my officers into the homes of families for a weekend to live their culture, I want to break down mind sets and stereotypes.” He continues “Diversity is not an excuse. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, to be treated fairly and to receive a good quality service from the Police.”

His book, Not one of Us, will be published on February 22nd and, he explains, contains a passage about his time in Hounslow. “It’s not a negative book at all as some might expect. It’s a very positive about my experiences in the Met and with ethic minorities especially.”

Dizaei was recently passed over for the job of winning over the “hearts and minds” of the Muslim community for the police in favour of what some consider to be a less-qualified white officer. “Two to three years is the normal term for a borough commander. I am ready to move on should the right thing come up.”

Emma Brophy

January 16, 2007