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ACC who led major organised crime Op retires after 30 years service

Cleveland ACC Lisa Orchard retires after long and "distinguished" career
Published - 12/07/2021 By - Chloe Livadeas

Cleveland Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Lisa Orchard retires today (11 July) after 30 years of service which has seen her move from ‘woman detective constable’ to Head of Crime at Northumbria Police and the senior officer responsible for Operation Lavender.

Looking back over some of the highlights of her career, she said: “I like complexity and layers and working things out.”  

As lead for Northumbria Police’s Operation Lavender – which centred around evidence on organised crime groups from an assisting offender dubbed ‘supergrass’ by the media – ACC Orchard had oversight on six sub-operations.

These operations collectively spent five years working through court and resulted in 29 offenders – involved in the supply of cocaine and associated violent crimes – being sentenced to a total of more than 250 years in prison.

She joined Northumbria Police in 1991, with the initial ambition of becoming a detective in the drugs squad.

She started her career in Blyth before joining crime teams working Gosforth and Wallsend. She remembers that at that time, in many teams, there was just one woman and being told: “CID already have a female and I’d have to wait until she went before I could join.”

She was successful in making the change to a detective role and at that time given the gendered title of ‘woman detective constable’. “That’s just how it was then. I certainly seized every opportunity to do what I wanted to do during my career and in fact policing was a very flexible career for me.”

She recognises she was able to pursue her strengths and interests, including drawing on her Spanish language skills, and was first choice to liaise with Spanish law enforcement on a child abduction case in Benidorm and when the manhunt for Allan Foster – still one of the UK’s most wanted for his suspected role in the gangland killing of South Shields man Noddy Rice in 2006 – focussed on Spain.

ACC Orchard joined Cleveland Police in 2019 from Northumbria Police where she had held positions including Head of Crime, Head of Safeguarding, Detective Chief Inspector in Surveillance and Detective Chief Inspector in Counter Corruption.  

“A good detective needs tenacity and passion,” ACC Orchard said. “I learnt from one DS I worked for about the importance of making your own luck. So even if things are going bad it’s about keeping the team going and that determination to push on together.”

She is also committed to broadening the conversation about vulnerability. In 2013 she took a post as Head of Safeguarding. “It was an area of business I hadn’t experienced and wanted to and it made me appreciate just how much risk we carry and the importance of effective partnership working,” she said. “It also gave me a better understanding of the impact of deprivation.”

Asked about the biggest changes she’s seen in her career, ACC Orchard states that mental health, and its impact on policing was top but she is also encouraged by improvements to dealing with domestic abuse and sexual abuse and properly recognising and appreciating vulnerability.

She said: “What I know now is that for victims, convictions are not always the measure of success. Empathy and support and being listened to can be as important.”

She recognises how important good teams are in policing. “I’ve been lucky enough to work with incredible police and staff colleagues during my career and I’m very grateful for that. I’d like to thank everyone who made me feel so welcome at Cleveland Police.”

Cleveland Police’s Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: “Lisa has had a distinguished career in policing and we’ve been fortunate to benefit from her extensive experience during her time at Cleveland.

“I will be forever grateful to Lisa for her time with us and the communities of our force area are safer as a result of her hard work. There can be no greater legacy than that.”

ACC Orchard is married to a retired officer and they balanced both of their careers around the demands of raising their two children.

She is currently making no plans for her retirement other than embarking on a 180-mile cycle ride for a charity which raises funds for fallen officers’ families.

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