A dedicated rural policeman who strived to rebuild trust with countryside communities has retired after an eventful 30-year career.
PC Jon Chandler, 53, district rural crime manager for Norfolk police, began his career in King’s Lynn in 1991.
But after patrolling the streets of the town he soon moved to Downham Market where he worked in isolated rural areas such as Welney, Upwell and Outwell.
He also spent 10 years with the dog section, handling specialist drugs, search and firearms animals – making some memorable arrests and drugs seizures, and helping find missing people.
But he was always interested in wildlife and countryside crime, so he jumped at the chance to become a dedicated rural beat manager three years ago.
He worked to improve the communication between farming communities and the police, increasing the confidence to report crimes and improving cross-border co-operation with other forces to combat issues like hare coursing and hi-tech GPS thefts from tractors and harvesters.
“I have always been interested in wildlife matters and rural crime, and I could see I could make a real difference to try and reconnect the police with the farming community,” he said.
“For a long time, the farming and rural communities have been neglected to a certain extent. Farmers are a difficult group to reach out to as police officers. Most police officers will have no understanding of what happens out on farms and limited interest in it, particularly if you are a young PC early in your career and not talking to these people regularly.
“Norfolk took things like hare coursing very seriously but the knowledge base was quite limited so a lot of my focus has been about getting farmers on board to engage with us better and report it. There was always this fear that if they did report it, nothing would happen, so why bother?
“That was part of my job, to get the message out that we were interested in them. I think there has been a big improvement in the way we connect with that community.”
Mr Chandler said the increased number of arrests and prosecutions for hare coursing proved the initiative had been a success.
“This last year has been really successful,” he said. “We have always seized [hare coursing] dogs but this year we have got nearly 50 dogs in our care, and we have a good success rate in re-homing them.
“The numbers are up because PCs feel much more confident about how we deal with hare coursing, so we are seeing much more positive outcomes. I think that is one of the best things we have achieved, getting across the importance of it and that it needs to be tackled properly.”
Mr Chandler also has some proud memories from his time as a police dog handler, including arresting two murder suspects and seizing 100,000 ecstasy tablets.
“We had some fantastic arrests and finds,” he said. “But the things that really strike home to me was there was a couple of missing people who were very vulnerable who I found with the dogs. They were more important to me than anything.
“Without that they probably would not have survived. That kind of thing stays with you as much as the excitement of the arrests.”
There was also a brush with royalty while patrolling the grounds of Sandringham estate.
“I had a particularly interesting night when I was walking my dog off the lead around the grounds and he chased after the future king of England,” he said.
“It was late at night and Prince William was walking towards the garages and the dog picked up his scent and went charging after him. He took it in good jest. He was only young then.
“It could have gone horribly wrong if he was bitten, but fortunately the dog did what it was supposed to do, and just stood back and barked at him. It was a memorable night.
“There have been lots of highs and a few lows, but overall I have enjoyed my career. I have had the opportunity to make a difference – that is the reason I joined in the first place.”
— to www.edp24.co.uk