Society feels a lot more angry than it used to be, says Islington’s new police chief
Borough commander pledges to be open about the use of beefed-up stop-and-search powers
12 April, 2019 — By Emily Finch
Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli: ‘People appear to lose their temper more at traffic lights’
ISLINGTON’S new police commander believes “society feels a lot more angry than it used to” and points to people’s obsession with technology when explaining why he thinks there has been a surge in violent crime in the capital.
Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli, who took over as borough commander of Islington and Camden last month, sat down with the Tribune this week to talk Section 60s, knife crime and what the police do to help protect those with information.
Explaining the recent spike in knife crime, Chief Supt Kohli said: “I don’t think it’s just to do with austerity.” There have already been 36 murder victims in London this year – among them 17-year-old Nedim Bilgin, stabbed to death in Caledonian Road in January.
“You see mums and dads pushing prams of young children. They’re on their phones to other people and not talking to their child. The baby sitter is the iPad while parents are on their phone texting or on Instagram,” he said.
With parents often ignoring children to chase approval online through social media websites they are failing to pass down “softer communication skills”, said Chief Supt Kohli.
“Technology is meant to help us but it creates more noise. Child psychologists will tell you that if a parent doesn’t make the meaningful connection with a child between zero and four, you are many more times likely to disconnect from society. Will these children know how to deal with difficult conversations?” he asked.
He was passed down “caring and serving-the-community skills” by his parents. “If my parents were staring at the screen all the time, would I have been taught that?” he asked.
Chief Supt Kohli believes society feels “a lot more angry than it used to be”.
“I don’t know why that is and I think it’s a number of things. People appear to lose their temper more at traffic lights,” he said.
“Society doesn’t engage with young people as much as it used to. Back in the 50s and 60s, everyone parented everyone else, not just mum and dad. The village parented the children.
“Nowadays, people worry about safeguarding. I get that. But with all of that we’ve lost something. I wonder if society is more selfish now. I can’t put my finger on it.”
Chief Supt Kohli joined the police in 1992 and is now the highest-ranking Sikh officer.
His officers would not try to hide when Section 60s are authorised, he told the Tribune. The controversial power allows police officers to stop and search anyone without reasonable grounds in a certain area and time when there is evidence that serious violence has taken place or may take place. As reported in the Tribune last week, a recent change in policy by the government will now see inspector-level officers authorise a Section 60, which still needs to be approved by the National Police Chief Council.
“I’ve asked for there to be a review of the email list [where Islington police send Section 60 notifications] and make it bigger than it is. I have no issues about giving it straight to youth clubs and social workers. We’re not trying to hide what we do,” said Chief Supt Kohli.
When asked whether he would consider introducing dot-matrix signs – large electronic notices – to indicate when a Section 60 is in place, Chief Supt Kohli said there was a “cost implication”.
Witnesses giving evidence are ‘totally protected’
THE borough commander has reassured residents that they will be protected if they go to the police with information, writes Emily Finch.
There are two high-profile, unsolved murder cases in Islington. Jonathan “JJ” McPhillips was stabbed to death in Upper Street in February 2017 and 17-year-old Nedim Bilgin died in Caledonian Road earlier this year.
One man was charged over Mr McPhillips’ murder but subsequently released after the prosecution offered no evidence in court. No one has been charged in Nedim’s case.
Mr McPhillips’ mother Michelle has spoken about the “wall of silence”, with witnesses and those with information often unwilling to go to the police for fear of repercussions.
Chief Supt Kholi highlighted the various ways police protect those giving evidence.
He said: “There is a phrase, snitches get stitches, which is an awful phrase. But we have plenty of people across London who talk to us formally with criminal intelligence. Some of whom get rewarded for it. They are totally protected.”
He said the names of informants are kept on a computer system even he cannot access.
Police would only take action against a suspected criminal if there were multiple sources, to prevent information being linked to a single individual.
“We have previously taken people out of London and put them under witness protection,” he said.
Chief Supt Kholi said Islington police station receives “weekly dockets” from Crimestoppers, a charity which allows the public to submit anonymous information.
Those at risk of violence are also given panic alarms, which “come straight to us”, he added.