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“Tough gig? No. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.”

I am Ifor Williams. I am a 50-year-old father to two teenagers. I have a partner and I am also a part-time guardian, entertainer, cleaner, cook, chauffer and full-time friend to her three children. These are the most important things in my life. 

Secondary to that, but still very important to me, is the fact that I am also Police Constable 2004 Williams of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary. I am a neighbourhood beat officer for the St Paul’s area of Bristol. “Tough gig”, some say to me when I meet them for the first time.  “Not really,” is my reply, “the community of St Paul’s is diverse, tolerant, warm, welcoming, multi-cultural and full of the most amazing characters.” 

“Ifor’s so hard working. He’s always out on the street, friendly, gives people time and goes out of his way to deal with issues. He cares about people in this community and shows them a lot of respect. He’s a lovely officer.”
Anwar Hussain, manager of Super-Mashriq on Ashley Road
“He’s been so supportive, both to the centre and especially the young people who have events here. Not long ago, when an event was cancelled because of safety concerns, he worked with them to make changes so it could go ahead.”
Amirah Cole, director at the Malcom X Community Centre

I volunteered to join the St Paul’s police team in 2010. Before that and since 2001, I had been part of the operations department carrying out duties both unarmed and as a firearms officer in support of drugs, firearms and anti-gang investigations. I developed a real affinity and liking for the community and jumped at the chance to join the neighbourhood team, to be part of a longer-term problem solving plan and with a desire to make the area safer and nicer for the people I had come to think so much of. 

It is against this backdrop that I started my role as neighbourhood beat manager. In the time since I have made many friends. Unfortunately, I have also been involved in incidents which, because of the actions of the offenders, have torn families apart. I have identified, arrested and helped to convict people responsible for murders, rapes, serious assaults, human trafficking and almost every crime type you can think of. 

“Ifor’s been so good for the area. He used to be in here a couple of times a week dealing with problems, but all the work he’s done in the area has cleaned it up so much, he doesn’t need to come anymore.”
Ann White, landlady of The Criterion pub on Ashley Road
“I’ve known Ifor for I don’t know how many years and he’s always been polite, caring and friendly.”
Dahlia (centre – red coat) – Image is Mark, Dahlia, Ifor and Lucine, St Paul’s residents

I repeatedly told local young men of my suspicions that they were dealing drugs and implored them to stop being involved. Some heeded my warnings, those that didn’t were subsequently caught in the largest undercover police operation of its kind in the country, and an operation I was integral to. It also brought the community much needed relief from the associated anti-social behaviour drug dealing brings. 

There are times when it has felt like a tough gig.  I have been assaulted countless times and my jaw has been broken.  I have been spat at, had blood thrown at me and been threatened with knives and syringes.  I have been so low at home because there were times when I couldn’t see how we could solve some issues. I have cried with frustration when I see how cruel one human could be to another and cried with sadness at the death of people I have known and admired. I don’t mind admitting sleepless nights when I think how easily I could have been killed or seriously injured.  There are, of course, also times when I have made honest mistakes or the wrong decision and let myself down. I am a human being. 

“Ten years ago, the problems we had around here left us wondering if this was the right place for us to function. Ifor has been so supportive.
“I want to give my congratulations to Ifor. He is the person who has helped us whenever we’ve needed it. I have so much respect for him. He does a good job for us.”
Mohamud Mumin from Ashley Community Housing and Support
“He’s just so fair and approachable – but not ‘fake approachable’. He genuinely does listen to you no matter what your race, gender, religion - he treats you the same. He clearly loves his job and people respect him.”
Julie Mullin, St Paul’s resident

On the plus side, I have stood outside Cabot Primary School at the start of the day and beamed with pride as I watched the young children from so many faiths and cultures run into the playground. Lots of them would shout out my name and say “Hi” as they ran in. I have laughed with the elder Jamaican men shouting at each other over their dominoes and drunk coffee so hot it has taken an hour to cool with Somali men in the cafes on Ashley Road. I have watched the local children squeal with delight as they play with their mothers in ‘Orange Park’ or the ‘venture playground’.  I have been told off by my Mrs for spending too much money at work eating fried chicken, rice and peas or soup from my favourite food stops. 

I have helped secure money to buy football kits for youth teams and fund youth clubs. I have helped local businesses flourish by solving crime and anti-social behaviour issues. I have watched the whole area being developed and affordable housing being built on waste ground because the police and partners were driving down crime. Far from being a “tough gig”, for the most part, I’d say I have the best job in the police force. 

PC Ifor Williams