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How the Peel Principles and CT are saving lives

Earning public support within diverse communities is a crucial facet of effective counter terror policing a CT officer who speaks four languages tells Police Oracle.

Everyday people: Supt Pervez Mohammed explains his work with communities

Everyday people: Supt Pervez Mohammed explains his work with communities

Date - 29th March 2022
By - Chris Smith

When Sir Robert Peel set out the values of policing in 1829, he couldn’t have imagined the scale of threat officers would be facing in the 21st Century.

Knowing and understanding the people in towns and cities is a vital part of countering it. So ‘the police are the people’ matters now more than ever.

CT Policing is reaching out as part of a recruitment campaign to not only increase its numbers but add to the diversity of its own ranks. The West Midlands hub is proving crucial to connecting with vulnerable people who are in danger of being radicalised by extremists.

Here Supt Pervez Mohammed, Head of Protect, Prepare and Operations for West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit explains how his own upbringing is helping to save lives.

Why did you decide to become a police officer to begin with?

From a child, I was always passionate about serving the public and caring for people. My parents were immigrants who couldn’t speak or write English. From the age of six I used to translate for them when they’d go to the hospital or doctors and things like that. I used to write letters for them. Later, they used to help out people who came from deprived areas. So it comes from my parents.

Has that helped with your work?

Definitely. My family is from Kashmir so I have the perspective of that and being a Muslim and British and being from an immigrant family. There’s sometimes been a trust and confidence gap between the community and ourselves. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to get that understanding in there.

What was your route into CT policing?

I joined Leicestershire Police and was then promoted to West Midlands where I’ve been for 14 years. I started in neighbourhood policing and I’m a trained detective. I was given this exceptional opportunity by Chief Constable Sir Dave Thompson as part of my development. He seemed really forward thinking. I was selected because of my skills and abilities.

Let’s talk about the skills and aptitudes needed for the job. What do you need?

I have the ability to invest in partnerships in the community and that has paid off in many investigations. It’s having the knowledge and understanding of a culture. And it helps with our approach to policing legitimacy – the way we interact with the public.

It’s utilising that approach when you interact with community politicians and religious leaders to gain trust. Some of it is about who you are. When people see themselves, they feel reassured. I speak four languages thanks to my background: Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri and Arabic. It’s just being able to be me and say the right thing at the right time because you understand the culture.

Can you explain?

So, back in the day Kashmir was independent – and had been for 2,000 years. Today, Pakistan and India both claim it. From my background I have an understanding of Hindu and English culture. When you’ve got that context, it helps you understand the sensitivities of what’s behind what people are saying and how they perceive things.

The important thing is the ability to think differently. If you look back in policing you realise that if you keep doing the same things in the same way you get the same results. And offenders are always changing. It’s about getting that information, that intelligence that we need to work.

Would you have considered CT roles if you hadn’t been invited to get involved?

I always thought that CT policing was unapproachable, that I wasn’t good enough. I’ve been quietly surprised with what I brought to the job.

How did you adapt from traditional policing?

It was around recognising that my skills and background gave me a competitive advantage. I was able to inform on strategy and tactical deployments and how you approach conversations or how you are going to divert a vulnerable individual.

How can someone develop in CT?

Getting into CT senior leadership, for me, was about understanding what my key strengths are and how to bring that out. It’s not just at a job level but also explaining, influencing and inspiring individuals; creating that vision. I want people to love their work. If you connect with what you’re doing on a day to day basis, it makes a difference in people’s lives.

What does job satisfaction look like when the priority is making sure nothing happens?

It’s both quantitative and qualitative that’s important. I will never know when we’ve stopped the next death. When you’ve reached out to an individual that’s vulnerable to radicalisation or extremism and you’ve helped turn their life around, you never know what they could have done. Yes, they could otherwise have killed or maimed lots of people.  But when you are getting feedback from the community an individual is doing well, that’s really satisfying.

It’s not the police telling the community how they are going to help change an individual. It’s working out what is the golden thread that they need and then we all work together hand in hand. You don’t get it right all the time. But you do make a difference.

This sounds very different to what we see on TV.

You have to be approachable. The only way we are going to be able to work together with communities is by getting their trust and confidence. They are our eyes and ears. And that helps when we’re getting in there really quick to help that individual really quickly. And it’s about helping someone. Prison doesn’t work in terms of rehabilitating people in the way that we would want them to.

What are the advantages of working in a regional team?

Working in CT policing in the West Midlands is one of the most exciting opportunities. The region has huge diversity. Incredibly, it has one of the highest populations of young people too. There’s brilliant communities. There’s fascinating work, there’s brilliant colleagues. And your journey into CT policing doesn’t stop; there’s secondments across the policing network. The great thing is it’s not just local-focused. You’re right in the heart of the West Midlands community, keeping people safe.

Is there are type of person the teams are looking for?

We need all kinds of different people to into the organisation. We want you to be in the forefront of preventative policing, identifying those individuals who are vulnerable, who are getting exploited online. We need data analysts, we need AI and machine learning experts who can do this in an ethical and transparent way.

And CT policing is not just about police officers. The most useful and talented people are often staff. It’s about the individual who wants to shape their own future.

There are a lot of hugely talented people out there who are just not confident. They’d be amazing if they knew what they could bring to policing. They just don’t know it.

Did you change anything about your life in order to fit in after you joined CT?

It wasn’t a case of ‘I’ve got to give up being a Muslim or a Kashmiri’. You can still have your heritage and be able to join. It’s not going to stop you expressing yourself.

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