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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Watson

Nikki joined Avon and Somerset Police as an officer in 1987. She has worked in many roles across the force and was promoted to Assistant Chief Constable in 2015.

Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Watson, Avon and Somerset Police

Nikki heads the Investigations and Operational Support directorates including roads, police dogs, police horses and firearms, major and complex crimes, investigations and intelligence. 

Nikki says:

“I set out to become an Avon and Somerset police officer because I wanted to help create safer and better communities in which people can live free from the fear of crime.

In the years since, my ambition has not changed however the crimes we face daily have. Nowadays, increasingly complex crimes such as organised and cyber-crime, are part of our daily workload.

We are more than equal to these challenges and are constantly developing and improving our ways of working so that our officers – from frontline to specialist teams and investigators – are efficient, proactive, agile and available. 

“We are committed to delivering an outstanding police service that helps keep our communities safe.”

This was the first police service I joined and my ambition was to become a Chief Superintendent. I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to progress to my current role, thanks largely to the support and encouragement I received. I was positively influenced and shaped by female and male inspirational leaders, and supported by people I respected and trusted. They gave me the confidence to keep going and encouraged me to keep moving forward.

Hence one of my passions is for coaching and mentoring. As a qualified coach, it’s my turn to hopefully be an inspirational figure for tomorrow’s leaders and I’m dedicated to improving inclusion and diversity in every corner of the service.

Our ambition is to become the UK’s most inclusive police force. We are everybody’s police and it’s important that we better represent the communities we serve and attract more people to join us from many different backgrounds and with a variety of experience, life skills and qualification.

It’s been rewarding, during my time, to see the introduction of initiatives such as work-life balance seminars, flexible working/part-time support networks and promotion preparation workshops to enable many more people to consider a career in policing.

I have never regretted joining Avon and Somerset Police and I could never imagine doing anything else other than policing. I hope that I can encourage others to say the same.”

Key responsibilities
  • Lead for the investigation of serious and organised crime.
  • Overall responsibility for the Investigations directorate including child vulnerability, adult vulnerability and complex crime.
  • Overall responsibility for the Operations directorate including criminal justice, operations, tactical support, intelligence and tasking and covert operations.
  • Bringing together and overseeing the work of the Tactical Support team, comprising roads, firearms, dogs policing and mounted patrol sections.
  • Lead on planning for major public and sporting events e.g. Glastonbury festival.
  • Leading on Out of Court Disposals (OOCDs) – responses to crime that the police can administer locally without having to take the matter to court.
  • Running Gold* groups, leading on events or activities that could affect public confidence (*Gold = with overall strategic command of operations).
  • Chair of the Local Resilience Forum (LRF), working with partners to plan and prepare for civil contingencies and major incidents.
  • Chair of the Regional Economic and Cyber Crime Strategic Co-ordinating Group, which sets priorities, directs resources and scrutinises performance against the economic crime threat, such as fraud.
  • Leading on the Demand Flow project tasked with understanding the calls on our service, reviewing processes and systems, exploring ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness and addressing pressure points to make more frontline staff available.
  • Working as part of a national effort in managing improvement around disclosure of evidence.
  • Identifying and adopting learnings e.g. from partnerships, misconduct hearings etc.
  • Strategic lead for gender within Avon and Somerset Police, looking at the issues impacting women at work with the aim of creating an environment where women can develop and thrive.
  • 1987 – Uniform and Criminal Investigation Department (CID) roles at Avon and Somerset Police
  • 2000 – Chief Inspector, Operational Planning
  • 2002 – Staff Officer to Chief Constable Steve Pilkington
  • 2003 – Operational Chief Inspector at Bath
  • 2004 – Superintendent – seconded to Bristol City Council
  • 2006 – Superintendent – Firearms and Roads Policing, Avon and Somerset Police
  • 2006 – Basic Command Unit (BCU) Area Commander in Somerset East
  • 2013 – Commander for the wider Somerset area
  • 2014 – Temporary Assistant Chief Constable – Local Policing
  • 2015 – Assistant Chief Constable – Prevention, Protection and Prosecutions
Career highlights and achievements
  • Overall responsibility for leading Avon and Somerset Police’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic both externally and internally.
  • Giving evidence on stop and search to the McPherson enquiry as part of the report on the death of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racially motivated attack in 1999. Later seconded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to report on recommendations being implemented by London Metropolitan Police.
  • Managing implementation of recommendations and learnings from the Serious Crime Review (2009-2010).
  • Responsible for a drugs intervention programme and increasing the number of offenders getting into drug treatment during secondment to Bristol City Council.
  • Working with the criminal justice system, crown prosecution system and courts to improve joint working and present best evidence to help secure prosecution. By helping to make the criminal justice process more efficient, swifter justice can be secured for victims and offenders dealt with appropriately.
  • Developing, in partnership with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), a pilot domestic abuse perpetrator programme. This enables Out of Court Disposals (OOCDs) to be given where appropriate so a perpetrator can attend a programme to address their offending behaviour without first having to go to court.
  • Overseeing the introduction of Avon and Somerset Police’s online reporting system, reducing calls to 999 and 101 by 15 per cent (2019-2020).
  • As gender lead, supporting a campaign to make the menopause a non-taboo work subject. Specialist trainers have worked with over 180 managers and 260 staff, putting them in a much better place to ask for the help they need or provide support to colleagues and those close to them.
Qualifications, awards and recognition
  • Public Order Gold Commander
  • Events Gold Commander
  • CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) Gold Commander
  • Counter-terrorism Commander
  • Strategic Firearms Commander
  • Civil Contingencies Gold Commander
  • Accredited ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) Silver (tactical) Commander
  • Accredited Coach – Level 5 – coaching officers who are preparing to undertake strategic command courses
Personal life
  • Nikki is married with two daughters.
  • She regularly participates in outdoor pursuits including running and hillwalking and also enjoys travel and skiing.
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