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'We back Paddick' campaign kicks off
By Gibby Zobel, Big Issue
The Big Issue this week launches a reader campaign – part of the unprecedented groundswell of community groups and public figures demanding the reinstatement of Britain's most controversial cop, commander Brian Paddick.
The extraordinary campaign is being backed by the Community-Police Consultative Group for Lambeth, where Paddick pioneered his 'softly-softly' approach to cannabis policing. The group has called a meeting this week to support the embattled policeman.
Last week commander Paddick, 43, was moved to a desk job, but not suspended or replaced, pending an investigation over revelations from an ex-boyfriend (who was paid £100,000 by a tabloid newspaper).
He is accused of smoking cannabis – a charge he denies – but has admitted being in breach of police guidelines for failing to declare contact with his ex-boyfriend, who was on bail.
Community-Police Consultative Group chair Lee Jasper, who is also the adviser on policing to London's mayor Ken Livingstone, said: "Brian Paddick has revolutionised the face of police and community relations.
He is a tremendously effective officer, which is why we want a speedy conclusion to this investigation. He's admitted his errors. He should be reinstated."
Last week support for Paddick's radical approach to policing was given a boost as two major indicators of the success of his policies were released. As one of the nine boroughs that piloted the 'Safer Streets' campaign, Lambeth has seen a spectacular 40 per cent fall in street robberies in the past six months.
"There has never, I repeat never, been a result like this for the Metropolitan Police Service," said Met commissioner Sir John Stevens at a Metropolitan Police Authority meeting.
In addition, the findings of a Police Foundation report into commander Paddick's 'softly-softly' experiment to warn, but not to arrest, those found in possession of small quantities of cannabis were released.
A Mori poll showed that 83 per cent of Lambeth residents supported the scheme, which is to be continued. The report also revealed that 1,350 hours of police time were saved, which have been re-directed towards tackling hard drugs.
The reader campaign follows the publication in The Big Issue of an open letter of support to Paddick's boss, commissioner Sir John Stevens, on March 11 signed by London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, Richard Truss, the Dean of Lambeth, drugs experts, community leaders, magazine editors and newspaper columnists who have reiterated their backing in the light of the latest accusations.
The tabloid exposé came just 24 hours after a survey among 150 officers revealed that half had taken cannabis. The survey of Metropolitan and South Yorkshire police was conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Trust.
The investigation will be headed by an outside force, overseen by an independent civil servant from the Ministry of Defence and is expected to last between two and four months, according to the Police Complaints Authority.
"Even if commander Paddick is found guilty of the charges against him, there is no suggestion that he is either corrupt or incompetent. He should be reinstated as quickly as possible and allowed to get back to the job he is so good at," said Big Issue editor Matthew Collin.
"The upsurge of community support for Paddick is unprecedented. His progressive approach has set new standards for inner-city policing – and is getting results. The witch-hunt against him in the right-wing press is both deplorable and misguided," Collin added. The Big Issue was the first to reveal that Brian Paddick was airing his views on drugs and crime and engaging in debate with the online community of the urban75.com website.
Paul Bakalite, aka 'Hatboy', started the original website 'thread', which has been read by 30,000 people. Even now, several other serving police officers are contributing to the website and moving the debate forwards. Bakalite has been leafleting residents in the borough and said: "Black, white, gay or straight, the support is there."
Support for Paddick is also evident from the most unlikely quarters, including self-proclaimed anarchists. 'Wanted' posters with a picture of commander and the words "for being accessible to Lambeth people… for wanting to make a difference" have appeared across south London. Petitions are being circulated in local pubs.
One tongue-in-cheek leaflet titled 'The Life of Brian' reads: "Reinstate Paddick. He's not a very naughty boy, he's the Messiah." Other supporters have mooted a fundraising benefit gig and a 'St Paddick's Day' demonstration next month.
Pro-Paddick supporters picketed the Metropolitan Police Authority meeting last week. One held a banner which read simply: "Paddick changed my mind about policing."
Last week, still writing as 'Brian: The Commander' on the website, Paddick said: "I really appreciate all your support. I must now defend myself through the investigation process and not through these boards or the media. I am still here and I will not be driven away."
Community-Police Consultative Group for Lambeth extraordinary general meeting, March 26, 6pm, Lambeth Town Hall, London SW2. Info: 020-7722 0878.
WE BACK PADDICK
I/we call on Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir John Stevens to reinstate commander Brian Paddick as swiftly as possible. name: ........................................
Please photocopy and distribute this coupon. Complete and return by Wednesday, April 24 to: We Back Paddick
The Big Issue 1-5 Wandsworth Rd, London SW8 2LN
Or email: WeBackPaddick@bigissue.com
All messages will be collated and delivered directly to Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir John Stevens.
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