CC Simon Cole and Chris Woodward
Issued on 14/6/18 at 1:38 p.m.
Chris Woodward is retiring from Leicestershire Police after an incredible fifty years’ service.
Chris joined the force just before his sixteenth Birthday in July 1968 as a cadet in the days when you spent a year as a junior, an intermediate then a senior cadet. Chris describes the recruiting Sergeant as a strict disciplinarian who put them through their drill and during early swimming lessons would make them jump off the top diving board whether they could swim or not! Then a keen rugby player and cross country runner, he recalls that his interview seemed to involve being asked if he was good at sport.
Chris became a police officer in 1971 and started in the city centre. He said; ”You had to arrive at Charles Street Police Station fifteen minutes before your shift, ready for inspection in the large parade room. You had to produce your ‘appointments’, which meant you had to be in full uniform with your truncheon, whistle and pocket book. You were given your allotted beat, sometimes a main city centre street, to patrol and in the early days were marched out of the station turning either left or right depending on which beat you were given. You weren’t allowed back in the station instead making hourly appointments to meet the Sergeant at an agreed location with your pocket book so that he could sign it. If you weren’t there without reasonable excuse or your pocket book wasn’t up to date you were in trouble.”
“It was a very macho culture in those days and I am glad I have seen that change over my career.”
Chris progressed on to the panda car and moved to the old Hinckley Road Police Station where one of his duties was to test the air raid siren once a week by winding it up. Returning to Charles Street some time later to cover the police vans and central area car duties. He recalls when once he applied to go into the drug squad, whilst he didn’t get the job, he was offered Special Branch duties instead based back at Charles Street and the airport where one of the responsibilities was the checking all the flights coming in and out of Ireland as it was at the height of IRA activity at the time. “I remember going to New Scotland Yard on courses where the commanders reminded you of characters out of James Bond!”
Moving onto CID duties, Chris eventually went to Wigston as an acting Sergeant, then to Welford Road, then Hinckley before being promoted and landing in Coalville in August 1980. “Coalville was of course a coal mining community and I remember on my first day it was chucking it down with rain and all this black grime was running down the streets from the coal lorries.”
Chris moved locations and roles several more times including the police mobile reserve being called to assist at murder scenes and worst of all the Kegworth air disaster. He later found his real niche ‘on the Belgrave’, working closely with the local Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities. A place where he first started getting into partnership working and Chris was at the forefront of developing community and race relations which was to become his passion for the rest of his career. He made strong links with the Hindu community and was responsible for policing the Diwali celebrations before they got too big for his team, which included eleven officers and three traffic wardens, to manage alone.
After coming out on patrol with him, the then Assistant Chief Constable Erica Norton saw the close links Chris had forged in the community and she invited him to come to FHQ and help support up what was then known as the ‘Race Unit’. The then Chief Constable, Keith Povey, asked Chris to help him meet the community and that was the beginning of what has become the force Intercultural Evening.
Chris’s passion for community and race relations led to him building strong links with city centre based women’s groups and led the way in looking at the issue of domestic abuse becoming the first man to chair the Leicester Domestic Violence Forum which led to the setting up of the Leicester Domestic Violence Helpline which grew to gain charitable status and offer a 24/7 service. Additionally he developed a good working relationship with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Centre in the city and the various black and ethnic minority groups leading the force in its development of policies relevant to dealing with domestic abuse and hate crime. He developed innovative training methods raising greater awareness of cultural awareness involving key individuals from those communities across the City and county.
Chris retired from being a police officer in 2001, but that did not stop him giving another seventeen years’ service initially as a community coordinator and then a partnership manager continuing his work in building strong partnerships and securing funding before finally retiring in June 2018 – fifty years after first walking through the door.
Chris has three grown up children, six grandchildren and is moving to West Yorkshire with his wife Andi. Chris a keen gardener has volunteered for the National Trust for the last eight years and already has been promised a role volunteering at Hardcastle Crags near Hebden Bridge.
Chris has also raised lots of money for charity through cycling and running, including being in the Police marathon team, and more recently has been instrumental in setting up a group of ‘Heritage Watch Volunteers’ who are successfully helping to tackle church related crime.
Chris said; “I am sad to go but I am particularly sad to leave the people it’s going to be a wrench. I will miss the camaraderie and support. I joined the police because I wanted a vocation not a job from a very early age. Being there to help people and finding my niche in raising community relations and helping people get through bad times is what I wanted to do and it just shows what you can do in fifty years.”
Chief Constable Simon Cole presented Chris with a certificate on his retirement. He said; “It is incredible that one person can give fifty, yes fifty, years’ service to one organisation and remain committed and enthusiastic until his very last day. Chris is a man who has made a huge difference who has had an amazing career of public service and I wish him very well in his new life in West Yorkshire.”