Policing, And Other Ways To Save Children

Stapleford History Society 13 October 2015

Talk by Rob Needle

For our October meeting we turned to more recent history: policing since the 1980s, illustrated by the career of our speaker, local resident Rob Needle.

In 1981, for someone fresh out of university, the emphasis on marching and boot-polish in initial training came as quite a surprise. But work as a constable, posted to Cambridge, brought great satisfactions – so much so that it took the intervention of an eccentric superior to push Rob forward for promotion. After a mix of national and Cambridge assignments, he rose to command the police division based at the Parkside station. Rob’s theme throughout was the growing sophistication of police work. There were also of course the special requirements of Cambridge, such as the need to provide security for the visits of the university’s occasionally unpredictable chancellor, Prince Philip, and the mercifully rarer visits of his wife.

Asked what had been most difficult, Rob gave an unexpected answer: the dramatic events may stick in the memory, but the biggest challenge was the seemingly mundane bureaucratic business of making sure that the appropriate resources were deployed in every context and without busting the budget.

One event didn’t happen: no one got shot. With justifiable pride, Rob explained that the Cambridgeshire constabulary had always succeeded in resolving incidents involving firearms without having to shoot. He foresaw that a fatality would be inevitable some day. Sadly, a few days later he was proved right; the task now for the police will be to investigate and draw lessons from what went wrong.

Rob outlined how his skills led him into new careers since retiring from the police. He finished with a shameless plug for the Children’s Society charity shop in Sawston, which he manages these days. His message: you should visit!

[report by John Street]