The cop keeping the heartland safe

Barnet's top police officer talks to the JC


If you live in Barnet, Simon Rose is one of the most important people you’ve never heard of.

His title is Detective Chief Superintendent (DCS) Rose, and he is police commander for the north-west London borough, a role he has been in for a year.

On the wall in his office at Colindale police station is a giant map of the area under his command. Pinned next to it is an English-Hebrew calendar from a local Jewish charity.

“I’m not Jewish”, he says. “But I was in Israel on a kibbutz years and years ago, so I’ve got a little bit of knowledge of the secular Jewish world.”

DCS Rose has roots in the area. His mother’s family come from Finchley and his wife works at the Sternberg Centre,  home of several Reform and Liberal Jewish institutions.

Nonetheless, arriving in Barnet after a 25-year career working across London, from Waltham Forest to the West End, he was surprised by the make-up of the community.

He says: “I knew there was diversity within the Jewish community, because if you go to Meah Shearim [a strictly Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem], it’s different.

“But it did really surprise me, coming here, the enormous diversity”.

Barnet has over 50,000 Jews of many different denominations. It’s the local authority with the highest proportion of Jewish inhabitants in the country – over 15 percent.

Unsurprisingly, it is also one of the main areas for antisemitic hate crime. DCS Rose, who studied chemistry at university before joining the Met as a constable in Holloway and then moving on to CID, reaches for a graph detailing reported antisemitism in Barnet over the past year.

“If you look at the short term it’s relatively flat, but the longer term trend line is substantially up,” he says.

“Whether that actually means people are more willing to report it, through the work of the CST [Community Security Trust] and others… I suspect that the willingness to report has significantly improved, and that’s contributing to us hearing about much more.

“We’d like more reporting. I’m of the view that more reporting is a better thing because it means that people are willing to come forward.

“The more we know, the more we are able potentially to make arrests. Even if they’re not prosecuted, we’ll try and publicise that someone was arrested and held to account to encourage more people to come forward.

“If we get a half-viable case, we’re more than keen to put effort into it”.

As part of those efforts to combat antisemitic crime, the police have developed close relationships with a number of local Jewish organisations, including the north-west London branch of the Shomrim neighbourhood watch charity, and the CST.

After the Manchester bombing and the attack at London Bridge, an officer was based in the CST control room.

“The plan around that was just to try and speed up the communication between us and them”, says DCS Rose.

“We generally tend to do that only in the aftermath of a pretty substantial event that has significant local ripples.

“CST have an excellent network of CCTV and guards and security personnel. Sometimes, if we can feed that into our intelligence databases and reassure them that something flagged either isn’t necessarily something to worry about, or that we can get someone over there soon, it helps to quell some of the nervousness. It’s worked quite well”.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the police’s relationship with the community is via the informal North-West London Police Liaison Committee, headed by local resident Adrian Jacobs and made up of members of the community.

Mr Jacobs is just a phone-call away if, for example, the police have questions regarding Jewish festivals or diet for people held at police stations.

“There’s a director of custody who I’m in contact with, to make sure, for instance, that there are kosher provisions,” says Mr Jacobs.

“She told me about one case where they had a prisoner who insisted on kosher meals in the evening because they looked better and then in the morning insisted on having the full English fry-up. I said: ‘I can’t help you with that one, unfortunately’.”

The Liaison Committee provides diversity training for Barnet police officers — essentially, a crash course in Judaism. As Mr Jacobs puts it: “We take them to Munks shul [in Golders Green] or Hendon Adas Synagogue and go through the Jewish religion in about three hours.

“We show them the annual CST film, do around 2,000 years of history in around an hour and a half, show them around the shul and also explain various things.

“For example, if they’re going to a Jewish household to take a statement on Friday night, don’t be surprised if at around 11 all of a sudden the lights go out.” Many Orthodox families put their lights on a timer for Shabbat.

DCS Rose points out the value of the committee’s work. “Sometimes when something has happened that has a particular impact on the Jewish community, myself or someone else might bounce something off the committee, saying: ‘What do you think the implications of this are, what do you think we’re missing’?”

Mr Jacobs gives an example: “Before Shavuot I rang up and said — bear in mind, this was just after the Manchester attack — ‘Remember, Shavuot is on Tuesday night/Wednesday night, so there’ll be a lot of people in the streets, walking around at silly hours. Can you just put a couple of extra cars out and just be aware that there’s nothing untoward when they are walking about at three in the morning with young kids’.”

It is clear that the willingness of the Jewish community to work with the police is appreciated.

Constables at the station described how touched they are when, while attending crime scenes in Jewish areas, members of the community come up to them and thank them for helping to keep them safe.

“With the Jewish community the vast majority of people want to help”, said one Detective Sergeant. “They want us to investigate”.

This was not his experience elsewhere: “It’s a breath of fresh air”.

DCS Rose agrees: “It’s a nice area, where the community are much more supportive of police than an awful lot of other police boroughs are used to.

“It can be a bit of a shock, coming here”.

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