God Help Us

It may not be on the front page of every newspaper, but there are children dying on the streets of London.

Victims of the curse of Knife Crime.

In 2007, I stood at the scene of the murder of Kodjo Yenga and watched as his family wept. It happened in a quiet residential street in an otherwise unremarkable part of West London. The weapon used was a knife.

In 2008, I stood with the congregation at the funeral of Ben Kinsella. He had been enjoying a night out with friends when he was brutally attacked by strangers. The weapon used was a knife. And in the days immediately following his death, I had sat with his dad and sister in the quietness of my office and tried to find the words to say.

In 2011, I stood at the scene of the murder of Milad Golmakani: a children’s playground next to some flats in a corner of North London. The weapon used was a knife.

In 2012, I stood at the scene of the murder of Dogan Ismael: a first floor walkway in a South London Estate. A few feet from where he fell, a collection of flowers was resting against a wall – placed in memory of another young man murdered in exactly the same place just a few weeks before. In both cases, the weapon used was a knife.

And I cannot stand by as the madness of history continues to repeat itself.

No parent should ever have to bury their child.

The immensely sad privilege of policing is to be first on scene; to be the first shoulder for a family; to lead the hunt for those responsible; to seek justice on behalf of those no longer able to seek it for themselves.

And to speak up about what it all might mean.

I do so now not just a police officer – but as a Londoner and a Dad. This extraordinary city is my home – and these lost children were growing up alongside my own.


We need to have a conversation about Stop & Search.

I mean a proper, grown up conversation – free of mischief, ignorance and misunderstanding. I know it’s a controversial topic – one that has stirred up any amount of criticism of the police – but I also know what I have seen during more than two decades at or close to the front line of policing:

Stop & Search saves lives.

It’s as simple as that.

We, the police, have an absolute responsibility to use the power professionally – and never lightly – but, dear God, we have a responsibility to use it.

Because, if not us, then who?

Who will confront the men of violence?

And what is it that those who advocate for a reduction in the use of Stop & Search are suggesting as an alternative?

An anonymous police officer posted this stark challenge on Twitter last week:

‘Would you rather we had our hands in your kids’ pockets – or in their chest cavities?’

We need an answer to that urgent question.


Then we need to understand that, having used the power well, Stop & Search is not the long term solution to Knife Crime. It is simply the means of stemming the flow.

As others have suggested before me, this is not a problem we are going to arrest our way out of. The reality is that it’s a ‘whole society’ problem – one that demands a ‘whole society’ solution.

And, unequivocally, it begins at home. With the absence of good fathers and the presence of domestic violence; with the absence of a safe family environment and the presence of alcohol and drug misuse; with the absence of positive adult role models and the presence of malevolent ones; with the absence of hope and the presence of undiagnosed mental health conditions…

These are not simple things and, barring miracles, they are not going to be resolved overnight – or in anything close to the kind of short-term timescales demanded by this impatient world of ours.

There are some remarkable families out there who have lived through these realities – and some amazing practitioners, charities and community organisations who know and understand what they’re doing. We need to listen to them; we need to have the courage of our convictions – and we need to invest heavily in the things that actually work.

We need to do this in the knowledge that we may not see the full fruits of our labours for 10, 20 or even 30 years. We need to do these things because they are the right things to do.

The alternative is unthinkable.

God help us.

7 thoughts on “God Help Us

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  1. Reblogged this on constablexl and commented:
    Mr. Sutherland hits the nail on the head, twice.

    1.) We need a grown up discussion about stop & search. In a safe environment, free of judgement, preconception and disapproval based on the past.

    2.) We can only do this with the help of primary care groups i.e. teachers, parents, charity, communities.

    One Love, One London

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I hear that, there is definitely some honest conversation to be had about stop and search , i’d go even further , about guns and knives in the black community and the poorer parts of our communites but so we also need to have honest conversation about how those powers are used , how they are abused and how stop and searches are conducted. Thank God I am past the age where police stop me in the street and ask to search me, but I remember it well and remember how embarrassing and violated I felt. I still occasionally get pulled over in a car on spurious grounds (one group of officers stopped asking questions and drive off when I said I was a solicitor ) and I know how it leaves me and others feeling. There is a conversation to be had on both sides and I genuinely think they need to happen together and if done in the right way the only voices protesting will be those who are carrying knives or abusing the powers vested in them. God helps us all the time. We choose not to take it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As a mother and campaigner the conversations are being had but sadly only a handful are listening …….as we continue to raise awareness of the epidemic that claims our children’s lives daily, it will take others like you who care enough to say the issue of youth on youth violence needs wider society to intervene NOW and help to stop the chaos being caused to so many families, friends and bystanders living with the devastating affects of murder.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I was on duty just this Saturday in a north London borough. I was unfortunate enough to be the first on scene at a double stabbing where one young male had been stabbed in the centre of the chest and the second in the kidney. Fortunately both males have lived to tell the tale. But the point is this, where and when did it become acceptable for the suspects to think 1) I need to carry this knife & 2) think nothing of plunging it into someone else over what appears to be nothing more than a drunken argument?? The problem is then passed on to the families and friends of the injured, spending hours worrying if they will pull through. The police and ambulance crews who have to witness the horror and treat the injured. The families of the police officers watching their loved ones having restless nights and washing uniform covered in someone else’s blood. (as mine did). Who is at fault here? the answer is point blank at the person carrying the knife, but we all play a part. The parents & teachers who can but don’t educate. The police officers who can but don’t engage. The friends who can but don’t advise. The list is endless. But lets not forget every individual has the choice to carry a knife or not. Every individual has the choice to stab another human being or not. Until it becomes acceptable for the police to stop & search without criticism and for the sentences to actually deter people from carrying knives the problem won’t go away. I have dealt with more stabbings in the last 12 months than the previous 5 years. Hopefully TOGETHER we can find a solution, but until then all we can do is continue to go to work each day and give everything we have for the love of the job and the desire to help people. Keep inspiring people John – your words seem to be able to reach where others fail. Regards (From one of your former PC’s at NI, now working in a pan London role)

    Liked by 2 people

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