Just over 24 years after Brighton-born Justin Burtenshaw started his police career in his home town, he has been given the top job.
Chief Superintendent Burtenshaw has taken over from Nick May as the divisional commander in Brighton and Hove, with an annual budget of more than £25 million – almost all of which goes on pay.
He said: “I am honoured to be returning to Brighton and Hove as the divisional commander. I was born here and have lived in and around the city all of my life.
“Having spent the first 16 years of my career at Brighton, I understand the division and the challenges that policing a large city brings.”
He is also alive to public feeling after Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens was jailed for life last week for the murder of Sarah Everard.
Chief Superintendent Burtenshaw, who has a teenage daughter, said: “It’s been heartbreaking … I don’t see him as a police officer. I see him as a monster.
“Trust and confidence is a big thing in policing and we recognise that violence against women and girls is a problem – not just for policing but for society as a whole.
“I’m passionate about protecting our communities, including women and girls, and we will work tirelessly to protect the most vulnerable.
“I want to deliver an outstanding service. Policing is incredibly challenging and I am very proud to be leading the policing teams across the city.”
The 47-year-old officer said that the force-wide priorities in Sussex Police were key to securing public trust. They were protecting our communities, especially the vulnerable, catching criminals and targeting those who caused most harm, and delivering an outstanding service.
He added: “Only by doing all three of those will we keep that trust and confidence.”
The former Cardinal Newman schoolboy said that one of his proudest moments as a police officer was also one of the darkest moments of his career.
He was the senior officer on duty at the Shoreham Airshow when an aerobatic display went badly wrong and a Hawker Hunter jet crashed, leaving 11 men dead.
He led the team of first responders and said: “It was a tragic event which will stay with me forever.
“Working with all emergency services as one team in the immediate aftermath of the crash is something that I am immensely proud of.”
Chief Superintendent Burtenshaw had helped out at the airshow many times in his teens as a volunteer with the Air Cadets. He is among many who have since spent time with his thoughts at the memorial by the footbridge over the River Adur that became a focal point for the community’s grief.
“It affected me after what I saw,” he said, “although that pales into insignificance compared with what the families must feel.”
He joined Sussex Police after earning a degree in geography and energy studies at Brighton University.
After spending his first 16 years in Brighton, as a response officer, in neighbourhood policing and investigations, he became the district commander in Chichester and Arun.
He joined his home division after serving as the Gatwick Airport commander and head of firearms and protective security across Surrey and Sussex.
And he paid tribute to his predecessor as divisional commander of Brighton and Hove, saying: “I first worked with Nick May when I was the district commander at Chichester and he was the SIO (senior investigating officer) on the Valerie Graves murder.
“Nick has been an inspiration to many of us and someone who has always been available to offer support and advice.
“I am looking forward to building on his excellent work and the partnerships across the city that he has built which are all aimed at keeping our community safe.”
The job is in one respect the fulfilment of a long-cherished personal ambition but these days the new chief’s ambitions are broader – for his officers, staff and the wider community.
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