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Career farewell for ?enforcer who educated his community?

PC recruited head teacher for weekend patrols to tackle anti-social behaviour
Published - 05/08/2019 By - Ceysun Dixon

An officer who used a partnership approach with education as a catalyst for a dramatic drop in anti-social behaviour on his patch is stepping down following an “unforgettable” career.  

Northumbria PC Alan Bowden served the west Sunderland area for more than 20 years – having joined the force in 1992.

Announcing his retirement this week, the 50-year-old officer will best be remembered for his ground-breaking initiative in tackling youth anti-social behaviour in the Pennywell district.

This saw him enlist local head teacher Rachel Donohue to join him on weekend patrols – and the result was to cut disruptive misdemeanors in the region eight-fold.

His approach to youth nuisances was the realisation that schoolchildren who “cause problems in school are more than likely going to be the same individuals who come onto our radar out of school”.

PC Bowden said: “With Rachel’s help, and as a result of the kids regularly seeing my face in school, I’d be able to engage with them on first-name terms.

“I found that anti-social behaviour would drop whenever Rachel was out with us, because any troublemakers would know they’d be instantly recognised.

“But I think it’s really important to work with young people and schools. We don’t want children to feel like they have to run away from a uniform out of fear of reprisal - we want children to run towards a uniform whenever they think they’re in danger.”

There was a drop of up to 80 per cent in behavioural problems with youths in the surrounding estate, the result of the officer’s early addressing of disciplinary and truancy concerns at the school.

PC Bowden said he was inspired to join the force after watching crime series ‘The Sweeney’ and ‘Starksy and Hutch’ – being a “bit of a TV addict with all the crime programmes” as a child.

He added: “The conversation would then always get on to the police and the difficult job they had, and I suppose that influenced me and made me realise that I wanted to make a difference in whatever career I pursued.”

Inspector Marie Pollock said: “I quickly warmed to Alan in such a short space of time. I identified early on that he had a passion for community policing, and in that, he had a particular strength in working with children in schools and he wanted to serve the community well.

“He did that, and did so with an unrelenting passion. He had a nice approach when dealing with young people. He would enforce but also educate, and that’s what I liked about Alan – he looked at the bigger picture and would then adopt a problem-solving approach.”

As for his retirement plans, the officer remains coy on what the future holds for him, but said he hopes to continue working in the community and wants to spend more time with family.

“It is a wrench to leave,” PC Bowden said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 27 years’ service and I’ve met some fantastic people along the way.

“But my options are open. I’m passionate about the Sunderland area – I ideally want to continue doing some kind of work in the area, as I’m only 50 and I still want to help people, to make a difference in whatever way I can.”

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