Borough commander's police morale warning after Camden killings

Raj Kohli says 60 new officers would help with policing as he warns public against revenge attacks

Sunday, 15th September 2019 — By Samantha Booth

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Raj Kohli

CAMDEN’S most senior police officer has warned that members of the local force had been “utterly down” after learning of a third murder in five days, warning that he had “to look after them” to make sure morale does not fall.

Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli, the commander for Camden and Islington, said his own blood pressure was up and that he felt heartbroken as he described how officers felt after being confronted with the deadly sequence of events.

He said, however, that he was about to get a group of newly qualified police officers on the streets who would make it easier for him to make decisions on resources.

Fifty extra officers were drawn into Camden from other areas on a temporary basis this weekend to provide a visible presence after the death of a young man in Camden High Street on Thursday evening, the third fatal attack in the borough since last Sunday.

Taking questions outside Holborn police station on Friday evening, he said: “My head was low, my heart was hanging. I came in and I said to my team: What do we do? I was heartbroken. But I’m buoyed by the fact that I think we’ve come up with, I think, some great ideas and we are going to do stuff and it won’t be through a lack of trying.”

A man was killed in a stabbing in Camden High Street late on Thursday evening

Ch Supt Kohli said of officers who were policing the murder scenes: “They were down, they were utterly down. Even the team that came off four days off following the murders on Sunday, they were flat. Morale wasn’t great, it affects them. We don’t see these things and think ‘oh no there’s another dead body, let’s move on’. I need to look after them because that’s what we ask them to deal with.”

He said he had met with Sophie Linden, the deputy mayor for crime, the unelected post filled by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, on Friday in a meeting which had been planned before the latest killings.

“I’ve had conversations with Sophie around what I see some of the challenges are,” he said. “Those are confidential conversations, and potentially controversial conversations, but I’ve had a conversation and said: ‘Look, this is what I think we need to do’. The current mayor and deputy mayor released some money to give me more cops, I’m seeing those more cops right here and right now. That’s reassuring for me, but, do you know what?, my blood pressure is up here because I just want to get it right. I really do.”

Sixty new officers were almost trained and ready to hit the streets after a period in the control room, said Ch Supt Kohli, adding:  “They are getting there and I can now put them into response teams and release some really experienced officers in response teams to go into our gangs and youth violence scheme, using their skills and experience to get stuff done.”

A forensic tent in Camden High Street

He warned anybody considering revenge attacks to think again.

“There is a policing plan: we plan for the worst and hope for the best, so we make an assumption that there might be some retaliation. I hope not. Let ‘us’ get justice for this man, Wilson [shooting victim] and Shakira [stabbing victim]. That’s our job to do. I get that some people will potentially want to get justice for themselves. I say don’t get involved in that, let us do it.”

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