Brighton's youthful police chief may be forced to retire

Posted On 22 May 2012 at 1:09 am

Graham Bartlett expects to retire before he turns 50.

He shows no signs of wanting to retire and he loves his job as the police divisional commander for Brighton and Hove.

But Sussex Police Authority adopted a rigid approach a year ago – a rule known as Regulation A19 – so that the force could require officers to retire after 30 years.

They decided to use A19 as a way of bringing down the numbers on the payroll to cope with spending cuts.

And in March next year Chief Superintendent Bartlett will have completed 30 years’ service.

Graham Bartlett

He said: “I joined in March 1983. It was the first intake that I could have joined. It had always been a lifelong ambition to be in the police.”

His uncle was a traffic officer and his father – a former borough surveyor – was in charge of Brighton’s special constables.

Chief Superintendent Bartlett said: “One of my roles within the force is that I lead on specials.”

He commands not just hundreds of officers and staff and an annual budget of £25 million. He also commands respect.

The words integrity, principled and astute have been used to describe him as well as professional, effective and modest.

And it is his modesty that comes across when he is asked about the prospect of forced retirement.

“There are people who are going to be missed much more than me, particularly those of a lower rank and who are on the front line,” he said.

“It’s difficult to be critical of police forces for using this rule given the current financial situation.

“There need to be different ways that police officers can leave so we don’t lose knowledge and experience. There’s no voluntary severance option. There does need to be more flexibility.”

Chief Superintendent Bartlett, who turns 48 in August, was born and brought up in Shoreham, and went to King’s Manor School.

He has served in Bognor, at Gatwick, in Haywards Heath and at the Sussex Police headquarters in Lewes. But if there’s a thread running through his career, it’s Brighton and Hove.

“I was first posted to Brighton in 1989 and I’ve been popping in and out of Brighton ever since. Brighton’s been my home and the place that I’ve felt a real affection for,” he said.

Ian Chisnall

He fondly remembers watching the Albion celebrate promotion to the top flight – the old First Division – from his Dad’s seafront office as the players paraded past on an open-top bus.

And he loves the fact that his patch includes the football club now, with responsibility for match-day policing just one of the challenges of the job.

He said: “My Dad always said had he not been a chartered surveyor he would have liked to have been a police officer.

“It’s a fantastic job and there’s great variety. I’m not sure you could get that anywhere else. I take great pride in being able to serve and help other people and keep them safe.”

Ian Chisnall, who is running for the newly created post of police and crime commissioner, praised the combination of strength and empathy shown by Chief Superintendent Bartlett over the past three years.

One Mr Chisnall’s potential election rivals, East Sussex County Council leader Peter Jones, cited Chief Superintendent Bartlett as a good example of the need to review the forced retirement of officers after 30 years.

Councillor Jones said: “There has to be a sensible alternative to pensioning off highly qualified police officers and we have a responsibility to try and identify that as soon as possible.”

As a member of the police authority, Councillor Jones said that he had persuaded his colleagues to request a report on the matter from Chief Constable Martin Richards.

If a more flexible way forward can be found, Brighton and Hove’s police commander will not be the only person to be happy with the outcome.

A decision is expected on Thursday 31 May.

 

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