CHIEF Constable Mike Langdon is preparing to step down after five years in charge of the Isle of Man police force.
During that period, the Constabulary has seen levels of recorded crime drop to levels not seen in more than 30 years, while detection rates are the envy of many a UK force and public satisfaction in the work done by his officers is at an all-time high.
It’s a far cry from when he first joined the island’s force as Deputy Chief Constable from Merseyside in July 2005.
He arrived at a time when the Manx force had been going through a very difficult few years, with morale and motivation worryingly low.
‘I came at the right time to make a difference,’ says Mr Langdon who was appointed to Chief Constable on a five-year contract in January 1, 2008.
Originally from Bolton, Mike Langdon, who turned 56 on Saturday, began his police career in Blackpool where he became the first officer in the Lancashire force to join CID straight after the end of his two year probation.
He had 12 years as a DC – ‘I loved it!’, he says – then became a uniformed sergeant in Blackpool, DI in Lancaster, DCI at Hutton police headquarters, back to Blackpool as chief inspector, then Superintendent in Merseyside, rising to head of CID and head of intelligence in that force. His last post there was commander for north Liverpool.
Did he ever have any regrets coming to the relative tranquillity of the island?
‘None at all, it was a unique opportunity,’ he insists.
He said he quickly established a respect for the officers in the small force here who could turn their hand to a variety of police functions.
‘I wish I had found that out earlier,’ he says. ‘We have 230-plus officers and everyone is vitally important.
‘If you can get more out of specialist officers in the island, why can’t they do it in Merseyside with 6,000?’
He said his main focus when he arrived here was to get together a totally committed senior team dedicated to getting the most of the officers, restoring in all ranks a sense of motivation and pride in working in the communities they served.
A central plank of this was setting up Neighbourhood Policing Teams, allowing officers to take ownership of their responsibilities.
There was also an emphasis in training specialist staff like scenes of crime officers, dog handlers and financial crime investigators.
He says the aim was to make sure they had the best opportunities they could, ‘creating stability, allowing them to gain experience and develop their expertise.’
There was sea change in thinking, Mr Langdon explained, moving from reactive policing to a new focus on those who cause the most harm, those who are most vulnerable and those locations most at risk.
‘It’s not rocket science,’ he says.
And all this delivered very real and dramatic results with recorded crimes falling by about 45 per cent in five years. Burglaries, for example, are at the lowest level in decades.
But Mr Langdon said it’s not these statistics he’s most proud of – it’s another figure that shows that 93 per cent of young people respect the police.
‘That’s an extraordinarily high figure, and will be a significant factor in years to come,’ he says.
Mr Langdon said that unlike some part of the UK where antisocial behaviour is regarded as the norm, members of the public here are happy to assist the police.
He said the highpoint of his time here was ‘watching police officers and support staff flourish and achieve’.
Another significant change that has happened during Mr Langdon’s tenure has been the increasing number of female recruits.
When he first became Chief Constable five years ago there were no women in CID and now there are five – half of the total. Mr Langdon put this down to a change in culture in the police generally, away from the macho ‘Gene Hunt’ attitudes that prevailed when he first joined the service in the 1970s to one that puts a focus on recruiting trainees with a range of skills including attention to detail.
His deputy Gary Roberts was named on Friday as his successor.
Mr Langdon said the first challenge for the new Chief Constable would be to keep pace with a growth in specialist areas of policing – e-crime, paedophilia on the internet and cross-jurisdictional crime.
The growth in these types of crimes, at a time when no new money would be coming from cash-strapped public purse, meant resources could only be diverted from neighbourhood policing.
‘So that’s the challenge in the face of an environment of budget cuts,’ he says.
He warns that planned changes to police officers’ terms and conditions recently announced in the UK might not be the ‘best fit’ for smaller forces like the Manx constabulary and negotiations over this needed to take into account the specific context of the Isle of Man.
Mr Langdon, who leaves the force on December 31, said he is not yet decided on his future plans.
‘I’m not a big believer in making too early a plan,’ he says. ‘Around six weeks before my departure I will review the opportunities available both here and across.’
Retirement will mean he can spend more time with his family.
His wife Hazel and step-son Alex live in the North West and his 32-year-old son Matthew is a constable in Blackpool. He also has a three-year-old granddaughter, Evie.
During his time in the Manx force he spend 28 days a month in the island.
So is he ready to stand down?
He says: ‘I genuinely think the organisation is ready for a new leader. I don’t think you can really do longer than five years.
‘I hope my successor enjoys as much support across the board as I did. I’ve very much enjoyed my time here and learned a lot.’
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Weather for Isle of Man
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
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