Police chief’s vision to tackle youth issues in Sunderland

Northumbria Police's Chief Constable Winton Keenen.
Northumbria Police's Chief Constable Winton Keenen.

The man charged with leading police across Wearside has said helping the next generation is one of his top priorities on the beat where he began his career.

Northumbria Police’s newly appointed Chief Constable Winton Keenen set out on his life of law enforcement as a frontline constable on Southwick Green in 1985.

Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Winton Keenen.

Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Winton Keenen.

He has risen through the ranks to become the first of its top officers to take the post without having to first move from the force and has pledged to put neighbourhood policing at the heart of its efforts.

Looking back to the start of his time with the force, he said great strides had been made, which now puts victims at the heart of investigations, vulnerable people and children are supported and crimes involving sexual exploitation were now recognised.

Speaking to the Echo on a visit to our offices, he said: “It was a very different time and we were looking at very different types of crime, neighbourhood policing did not exist.
“What we have now is officers who are dedicated to those duties.

“There have been big changes and now these issues are at the core of what we do and we are better placed to deal with them.

There is some antisocial behaviour and we are doing something about that.

Chief Constable Winton Keenen

“I was born in Sunderland, it’s a place I have worked and it is a close knit community and I’m delighted to represent the people in it.

“We have some really good engagement that gives us an understanding just how much policing plays a part and how passionate people are about it.”

The force has said it has made inroads in dealing with antisocial behaviour, with Houghton and Southwick among areas where efforts have led to a fall in concerns.

The Chief Constable added: “Antisocial behaviour takes place in several forms and we shouldn’t demonise young people because they are in a group or just because they are together in a number.

Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Winton Keenan and Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt, being interviewed by Fiona Thompson, during their visit to the Sunderland Echo offices at Rainton Bridge this morning.

Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Winton Keenan and Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt, being interviewed by Fiona Thompson, during their visit to the Sunderland Echo offices at Rainton Bridge this morning.

“We need to give them diversions and a space to be themselves, but in a situation which does not affect other people.
“This is not just a policing issue it is come for society generally.

“There is some antisocial behaviour and we are doing something about that.”

During his career so far, he has experienced an extremely varied operational background which has seen postings to many different departments across the force area as well as abroad. These have included its Professional Standards Department, Serious and Organised Crime Unit, Force Intelligence and Special Branch.

In 2003/4, he was posted to Iraq as the first Contingent Commander for the deployment of United Kingdom non-military police officers, acting as mentors to members of the Iraq Police Service.

Police in Houghton on patrol last November following a flare up of youth issues.

Police in Houghton on patrol last November following a flare up of youth issues.

During his time there he was appointed as the lead officer for a large, multi-national contingent of military and civilian personnel, responsible for setting-up a police training academy and advising local senior police officers.

Much of his time in the force has been spent in the sphere of specialist, criminal investigation, often in the more covert aspects of policing.

Specialist roles have included those of dedicated senior investigating officer for homicide and kidnap and extortion, crisis and hostage negotiation co-ordinator, as well as tactical and strategic firearms commander.

He was formerly the Detective Chief Superintendent in charge of Northumbria’s crime department and has previously held a wide and varied portfolio of responsibilities at the most senior strategic levels for the sixth largest force in the country.

Such responsibilities have included leadership of crime department, professional standards department, firearms support unit, motor patrols and dog section, criminal justice, custody, corporate development, corporate communications and legal department.

He became Assistant Chief Constable of the force in 2014 and became its deputy in 2015, with his appointment into the top position agreed in March by Northumbria Police and Crime Panel in a unanimous decision.