It takes a special kind of police officer to take on the job of chief constable.
The role requires intelligence, resourcefulness, natural leadership qualities, resilience, community-mindedness and the ability to make tough decisions and keep an air of calm during a crisis.
Fortunately, Alex Marshall has all these qualities.
The 51-year-old will be leaving the top job at Hampshire Constabulary with a noteworthy legacy, with some key crime reductions in several areas, particularly burglaries.
But the Barnet-born officer is far from satisfied. He believes more work needs to be done to cut down on alcohol-related crime, with the public taking their share of the responsibility for this leech on society and police resources.
Mr Marshall has been the force’s most senior officer since October 16, 2008, following his previous job as Deputy Chief Constable of Thames Valley police.
Quite an accomplishment for a man who joined the Met at the age of 19.
Overnight, he became responsible for the second largest non-metropolitan police service in England and Wales, serving more than 1.9m people.
He came to the job during a very different political and economic climate to today, with a much bigger police force and funding not being counted down to the last penny piece.
Mr Marshall said one of his biggest achievements – albeit bittersweet – has been maintaining front-line police officers while having to make £38.2m of cuts since 2010.
On his greatest deed, he says: ‘Finding the savings that were needed while reducing crime and protecting the amount of police in local visible roles.
‘Policing has had to find a 20 per cent reduction in its budget.
‘I wanted to drive crime down and it has gone down every year I have been chief constable.
‘We promised that despite the cuts we would try to protect the number of police officers and PCSOs in our neighbourhood teams. I have kept that promise.
‘This has been a hugely disruptive time for the people I have working for me. They have had to put up with all sorts of changes. They have been brilliant in sticking to it.’
Reducing the number of burglaries was another high-point for Mr Marshall, who obtained a masters degree in criminology at the University of Cambridge in 2006.
When he started there were up to 20 burglaries a day in the county – now there are around 10, a figure he believes is still way too high.
He said: ‘Burglary is a very impactive crime. To see that coming down in the five years is really heartening and I would like to thank my staff.’
The latest crime figures show that overall crime has reduced by almost a third between 2007 and Christmas last year.
As of last December, Hampshire Constabulary was the third-lowest costing force in England and Wales.
Part of that success, Mr Marshall argues, is due to cutting down on needless bureaucracy and paperwork, police being allowed to use common sense and the electronic age speeding up police investigations.
He’s proud of the fact that 3,800 community resolutions were given out in 2011, so that offenders with trivial wrongdoing such as stealing an apple from a shop are held to account.
A total of £1.6m of confiscation orders were secured last year, stripping criminals of financial gains.
Upbeat he may be, but there’s still a tug at his heart when Mr Marshall talks about having to close police stations. He says: ‘I don’t like having to close our buildings.
‘Even though some of them were under-used and expensive to run, local people value very highly a police station and a police station building.
‘I made a promise not to reduce the number of officers in local visible roles. Given a choice between police officers and buildings, I would choose police officers.’
Mr Marshall will be moving on to his new challenge – the first chief executive of the new National College of Policing – with several feathers in his cap.
He received the Queen’s Police Medal in the Queen’s 2009 Birthday Honours.
He was also named the UK’s Individual Champion of the Year by Stonewall earlier this month for his work on equality, with Hampshire Constabulary being named the top police force this year for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
He is likely to be succeeded by the Deputy Chief Constable Andy Marsh.
And he says things are not set to get any easier for the force’s top officer. ‘The government had made a decision on the funding it’s going to give,’ he says.
‘It’s a great shame that policing is not one of those protected areas.
‘We have to give the best policing we can for the money we are given. I would always want more officers and more police stations.
‘But I am realistic. We are in austerity.
‘Money will remain tight.
‘Demands on policing are unlikely to go down.’
ALEX MARSHALL ON... BINGE DRINKING
‘It’s wasteful – the number of extra people I have out on a Friday and Saturday night to deal with violence and people vomiting.
‘It’s expensive. I would rather they were out catching burglars, not dealing with people who can’t cope with the amount of beer they have consumed. It has got better, but there’s still a lot more work to do.
‘Ultimately people have to take responsibility for their own behaviour. If you have had a drink and misbehaved, perhaps a suggestion would be not to do it again.
‘Too many people think it’s acceptable to drink too much and get into a fight. It’s completely unacceptable.’
ALEX MARSHALL ON... VULNERABLE PEOPLE
Mr Marshall believes more needs to be done to make sure that there is 24-hour provision to deal with vulnerable people who are taken to police stations when they have committed no crime.
For instance, if someone is found to be walking down the motorway at 3am and is found by officers, the person must be taken to a place of safety under the Mental Health Laws.
That is often a police cell.
He says: ‘I would rather they went straight into health buildings with health professionals.
‘There’s no crime involved. It’s about putting someone in a safe building so they are not at risk to themselves and other members of the public.
‘We are working with the health authorities.
‘A lot more needs to done to make sure that the health provision is there. This is not a job for the police.’