Keith Fraser: Retiring police chief says force must make better use of staff

He spent more than 30 years as a policeman, working on some of the country’s biggest cases and rising to become one of the region’s most senior black officers.

Keith Fraser: Retiring police chief says force must make better use of staff

But now, having moved from beat patrols with the Met in Barking to a Wolverhampton-based superintendent with West Midlands Police, Keith Fraser has decided to put his crime fighting days behind him.

Keith Fraser in his early days as a police officer

The 51-year-old spent his last day on the force on Saturday, and is now planning a retirement centred around charity work, walking holidays and family time.

Having worked in child protection and neighbourhood policing and led criminal investigations, Mr Fraser is ideally placed to run the rule over the state of modern day policing in the UK.

And he is unequivocal when it comes to the biggest challenge facing today’s forces.

He says that while West Midlands Police has had to adapt to take into account budget cuts and a reduced number of officers, the force needs to make better use of the staff that it has at its disposal.

Talking to student officer Pc Stefan Wedderburn

“We have made huge inroads when it comes to increasing the numbers of black officers, but we are simply not making the best use of our people,” he said.

“We need to move on from ghettoising people, and saying, just because you are black you can go and work in the black community. People from all different backgrounds bring different skill sets to the job. I don’t think we are good enough at identifying those skills and putting people in the right roles.”

“West Midlands Police has some fantastic staff from all different types of backgrounds that could be brought in to support all kinds of operations. This doesn’t happen enough and we are losing out strategically as a result.

“It is all well and good having more women police and more black police, but what are we actually doing with them?”

Reflecting on his career, Mr Fraser said that his greatest achievement as a policeman was to set up the Cultural and Communities Resource unit in London in 2003. The unit utilised up to 1,600 police officers and staff in wide ranging operations that included kidnappings, football violence and murders.

It contributed to numerous arrests and had a positive impact on community relations, he said, adding: “We made a real difference, which is one of the main things you can ask for as a police officer.”

He says he has had several proud moments on the job, but none more than the first time he put on his uniform after graduating from police training school in Hendon. “My family came to wish me well and I will never forget the look of pride on their faces,” he recalled.

Mr Fraser says that one of his worst memories of his time on the force involved a child protection case in London. He went out to a school to initiate an emergency protection order that resulted in a young child being taken away from his family.

“We took the child to an emergency foster placement and what struck me...I still think about it to this day...was how happy the child was,” he said. There was no distress or sadness. The child was just so pleased to be removed from their home.

“I found it extremely upsetting. You just consider how bad things must have been at the child’s home.” He has been involved in numerous high level cases, most recently Operation Eliminate in the Whitmore Reans area of Wolverhampton, which has so far led to four people being jailed for their roles in drug dealing.

“It was about more than just clamping down on crime,” he says of the year-long operation.

“We worked closely with the council to assist with public health issues and provide wider support for the community.

“One of the ways that policing has changed is that we now work better with partner agencies and community groups.

“It helps to build up community trust and confidence in the police which can only be a good thing.”

Mr Fraser also became one of the force’s most regular users of social media, his trademark ‘Morning Tweeps’ greeting often followed by police updates of police activity across the region.

“I always saw it as an extension of me as a person,” he says of his use of Twitter. “As a police officer you can’t be everywhere.

“I can put out one tweet and it reaches thousands of people in seconds. Sometimes it can make a difference.

“At a time when there are fewer of us, social media is a valuable tool that enables us to extend our reach,” he said.

As for his retirement, Mr Fraser said: he hopes for a ‘quieter’ life rather than a quiet one.“I’ve got plenty to keep me busy with three charities that I am working with,” he said. Plus I will finally have time to do all the travelling and walking that I never managed to fit in. I’ll have plenty to keep me busy.”

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