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Richard Brunstrom – An Enigma Departs UK Policing

August 18, 2009
Enigmatic - Richard Brunstrom probabaly Britains most misunderstood Police Officer

Enigmatic - Richard Brunstrom probabaly Britains most misunderstood Police Officer

Aberdovey, Wales – Richard Brunstrom, Chief Constable of North Wales Police has retired. Yes I can confirm he’s gone this time, he threatened to depart in May 2008 but that time around rumours of his going were, to say the least, exaggerated.

Believed by many to be the most flamboyant officer in the UK Police Force Brunstom has been referred to as ‘an enigma’  ‘manic’, ‘a man who if he had not joined the police would have been regarded as one of Britain’s most successful village idiots, and the ‘Mad Mullah of the Traffic Taliban. His fanatical approach to roads policing in North Wales, in particular targeting motorcyclists, made him a hate figure for a generation of bikers and biking journalists and a saint to campaigners supporting a ‘hard line zero tolerance’ approach to road safety.

Richard Brunstrom grew up in Surrey and graduated in Zoology from the University of Wales, Bangor. He got two years into a Zoology PhD but left, joining the Surrey Police in 1979. In 1990 he joined Greater Manchester Police as a Superintendent. He was appointed as an Assistant Chief Constable in Cleveland in September 1995. He joined the North Wales Police in 2000 and was appointed Chief Constable of the Force in January 2001. His apparent meteoric rise in rank in the mid years of his service is reputedly due to his attending the Chief Officers Course at the Bramshill Police College in Hampshire. Called a festering nest of political correctness by outsiders Bramshill almost certainly shaped Brunstroms attitude to minorities and reinforced his ‘get it done at any cost’ approach to Policing.

Often derided by his peers for his high visibility approach to Policing and love of publicity, known in other Force’s as ‘that man’ and ‘our problem’ in North Wales under Brunstrom’s stewardship North Wales Police produced among the best performance figures in the UK. With the best crime clear up rate in the country, and one of the lowest levels of overall crime, but it was with Roads Policing that Brunstrom found his true vocation. His appointment to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Traffic Committee as the head of Road Policing Policy, led to Brunstrom using North Wales as a test bed for some of his ‘active’ road policing concepts. Among other things Brunstrom championed the ‘netting off’ arrangements that enabled the introduction of the National Safety Camera Scheme and he encouraged Government support and funding for the national implementation of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems.

It was with the road policing of motorcyclists that Richard Brunstrom really hit his stride. Determined to cut the number of motorcycle accidents in his patch he declared North Wales a no go area to bikers. His public statements vilifying motorcyclists are part of UK biking legend, but in his haste to reduce road casualties Brunstrom simple forgot that the majority of bikers are law abiding and want to return safe home at night. His assumption that all bikers wanted to use North Wales as a race track, wearing illegal dark visors, displaying illegally small number plates and using outrageously loud exhaust systems simple alienated the whole biking community. Alienation that was compounded in 2007 by Brunstrom using accident scene photos of a decapitated biker during a presentation to the press on retraining speeding bikers and motorists. Brunstrom’s comments that earlier photos contained in the draft presentation were not ‘gruesome enough’ and that the bikers photos were ‘outstanding’ caused a national furore.

Did all this effort to reduce bike accidents in North Wales work? Ostensibly yes, accident figures dropped, but increased in the adjoining Police Force areas so it appears that all was achieved was the migration of crashes elsewhere, with an accompanying drop income for the North Wales tourist industry as bikers spent their cash in other places.

Brunstrom’s no go North Wales continues. On any given weekend over 400 bikers are stop checked, marked and unmarked police cars and motorcycles are deployed, as is the Force helicopter. The latest laser radar systems and average speed systems are deployed to catch the errant biker. North Wales is really a lovely place to go biking!!

As for Brunstrom being an enigma. The man who deployed his Police Officers against bikers was also the Officer with the insight and inspiration to develop and publish the UK National Road Death Investigation Manual. This sets a Police service–wide standard for the investigation of road death. Proper forensic investigation of accident sites has led to the prosecution of drivers in accidents involving motorcyclists, drivers who in earlier times would have simple got away with killing or injuring a biker. It has brought comfort to families who now know ‘what really happened’ when their loved one failed to return from a motorcycle outing, and has via lessons learned improved roads through better road safety engineering. This from a man who has told bikers face to face that he will ‘fix them and their mates’.

Richard Brunstrom a very complicated and deep man, a man who cares.

Britain’s largest circulation biker’s paper, Motorcycle News, is to reclaim North Wales from the region’s anti-motorcycle police force by staging a mass ride to the Snowdonia National Park on Sunday September 13 2009.

Full details here……

© Back Roads Rider 2009

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