From Hampshire to policing Afghanistan

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In a policing career spanning almost 30 years, one of Hampshire Constabulary’s chief officers is set to embark on what could be his biggest challenge yet.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Dann is to swap his office at the force’s West Hill headquarters in Winchester for a new post – in war-torn Afghanistan.

HELP Steve Dann, Assistant Chief Constable for Hampshire

HELP Steve Dann, Assistant Chief Constable for Hampshire

During his deployment the dad-of-four will this summer take on the role of senior police advisor to the Ministry of the Interior.

Working for the Nato Training Mission of Afghanistan, the dad-of-four’s job will be to lead and assist in developing intelligence-led policing and community policing models in the Afghan National Police.

‘The military are looking to move out [of Afghanistan] in the next three or four years,’ says ACC Dann. ‘The military have been training police so we have got 130,000 trained police out there.

‘[The majority] are illiterate so they are building literacy programmes into the training.

‘What they haven’t got is a policing model that actually helps support all of these people in place, so the UK and UK policing are very well thought of in the international community.’

The role will be a complete change of pace for ACC Dann, who will have to have a military escort, wear body armour and carry a Glock handgun during his deployment.

He adds: ‘What I have been really impressed with is the Foreign Commonwealth Office’s commitment to their duty of care.

‘I will have close protection when I’m over there. My movement will be supported by the military.

‘I will be wearing full body armour.

‘There have been officers out there for a period of time. There are about 14 UK officers deployed at the moment in Afghanistan – that’s in Kabul and Helmand Province as well.

‘I know one of the guys in Helmand. I met him and his wife a couple of week ago.

‘The role I have got is working for the Nato Training Mission of Afghanistan. The majority of the UK officers are working for EU Policing.

‘There’s this bilateral agreement for the NMTA with officers from across Europe. We give them officers as well.

‘Afghanistan is all about national security.

‘It’s helping Afghanistan to have a security infrastructure that reduces the risk and threat to the UK around it.

‘For me it will be a massive challenge.’

ACC Dann will initially be deployed for 12 months, and is set to work six weeks on, seven days a week, then two weeks off.

He adds: ‘My hours are approximately 8am to 10pm.

‘Literally it’s seven days a week – just two of the days you don’t work 14 hours, you work 12.’

The background which ACC Dann says has helped prepare him for his new post include a two-year-deployment in Northern Ireland as a senior investigating officer.

He probed deaths in custody, corruption and worked for the Police Ombudsman.

ACC Dann also dealt with more than 40 kidnaps as a senior investigating officer in the Metropolitan Police.

‘They are all challenging because they are a murder waiting to happen so we put a lot of resources into it,’ he says.

‘The closest it got was we had one in south London where the victim was trussed up in the back of a car.

‘They were literally about to kill him.

‘I gave the order to move in to make an arrest and [the hostage taker] pulled a firearm on the officer and was shot twice.

‘It was quite late at night. It was a really tough one because the woman who was the intermediary, who they were calling, had collapsed and was in the back of an ambulance and we were trying to stall to establish as close to 100 per cent he was in the car.

‘He had a loaded firearm on him. He got 19 years. His compadre ran off.

‘I managed to find him in Brixton in the end later that night. He got 17 years.

‘The victim’s words were “they were just about to kill me”. I put the arrest in just in time.’

ACC Dann’s CV also boasts the roles of detective, setting up a middle market drugs project looking at cases involving a kilo or more of predominantly class A drugs and bronze commander of London’s Notting Hill Carnival in London.

He was on the first ever formal course of chief officers to lead counter terrorism, run by the Association of Chief Police Officers. It followed the death of Jean Charles De Menezes at Stockwell tube station in London in June 2005.

The Brazilian, 27, was shot by Scotland Yard firearms officers who mistook him for wanted failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman.

ACC Dann was also a borough commander for Hackney, during which time he took community confidence levels from the worst in the Met – at 22 per cent – to 79 per cent in two years.

He says of Hackney: ‘[It] got under my skin.’

Now, as he prepares for his departure, ACC Dann says: ‘I have got to be an advisor to the Ministry of The Interior around this and move towards some for of community policing.

‘For me the most important thing is... it’s not about the language, it’s about the eye contact and the touch and trying to understand that.

‘I have to very quickly understand the culture of the community and the nuances of the religion.’