Michael Todd: Charismatic police chief

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The Independent Online

Michael Todd was a very modern British chief constable who infused the bureaucratic demands of police management with his own particular charismatic leadership style. He will be most remembered for his highly visible, hands-on approach and his at times controversial media-friendly manner. His colleagues in the police service will remember him for his energy, personal touch and for helping to restore local public confidence in "the job". They will also remember his contributions to national policing strategy in his capacity as a Vice-President of Acpo (the Association of Chief Police Officers).

Todd was born in 1957 in Barking, Essex, and, after abandoning his A-levels in his late teens, joined the Essex Constabulary in 1976 as a police cadet. Ambitious to progress in the service, he took time out to study for a BA at Essex University and graduated with a first-class degree in Government in 1989. In 1994 he took a further degree, receiving an MPhil, also in Government, and in 2003 the university honoured him as its Alumnus of the Year.

A high-flyer by all accounts, Todd rose quickly through the ranks of the Essex Constabulary, at one time serving as an Inspector at Bethnal Green in London as part of the first management-exchange scheme between the Essex and Metropolitan Police forces. In 1995 he moved to Nottinghamshire Police as its Assistant Chief Constable with responsibility for operational policing, management and technical services. Three years later, he was appointed to the Met as a Deputy Assistant Commissioner and in 2000 promoted to Assistant Commissioner in charge of all uniformed officers throughout London's 32 boroughs.

During his time in the Met, Todd demonstrated his ability to manage public-order situations effectively. His no-tolerance stance towards street crime ruffled the feathers of some colleagues, especially when he reassigned hundreds of traffic officers to deal with muggings and robberies. But his review of the May Day demonstrations in 2000, plus his subsequent management of the 2001 and 2002 protests, led to a commendation from the Met Commissioner Sir John Stephens. He also successfully oversaw the policing of the Notting Hill Carnival and the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations. In 2001 he was awarded the Queen's Police Medal.

A year later, in 2002, Todd was appointed Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police, the UK's third-largest police force, and one beleaguered by inefficiency and allegations of institutional racism. Although he set out to improve efficiency and stamp out racism in the force, it was never going to be an easy task. He did introduce a strategy to improve the GMP's efficiency, but within a year of taking over, a BBC documentary exposed strong racist attitudes amongst its officers. The subsequent inquiry led to the resignation of 10 of the officers involved. Todd is credited with turning around the force's fortunes, and restoring police morale and public confidence in the GMP.

While his strategies and tactics were very much in the mould of the modern British chief police officer, his style of management harked back to days gone by when the Chief Constables led their officers from the front. However, although he courted the media – as when having the Taser gun demonstrated upon himself – he was never as outspoken as some of his predecessors. Yet, in the old tradition, he worked hard to manage the public appearance of local law enforcement carefully, in order to close the "reassurance gap" that had widened between what the public expect of the police and what the police can deliver to them. He deliberately sought to deliver what the public wanted. In October 2002 he told the Manchester Evening News: "If it is youths on the street causing problems, shouting and swearing and making life unpleasant for people, that's where we need to intervene. That's not something for walking on by just because it is not a street crime."

Of course, not everyone agreed with his style, especially those aspects of it dismissed by fellow senior police officers as "media-grabbing". But one thing that they do agree upon is that he was a capable and efficient police officer with the potential to take on even larger roles. On more than one occasion he had been tipped as a future commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

David Wall

I worked alongside Michael Todd for many years and am proud to say he was my friend, writes Ken Jones. As Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and a vice-president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, his was one of the pre-eminent national voices in the debate about the future of policing, yet despite the power of his position and the influence he wielded, he always retained a personal warmth and sense of approachability in the company of police officers at all levels.

Fearless, robust and courageous are words that I associate with Mike. He was also a deeply compassionate man and could be relied on to reach out to those in need. As a boss Mike was consistent in leading from the front. He took the fight against criminals on to the streets of Manchester, making arrests himself and projecting confidence and strength no matter how tough the challenge. These traits, coupled with his unfailing optimism and good humour, drew people to him and his causes. Mike had immense talent and potential now lost to us.

But we should remember that he was also human, with human weaknesses. We have seen in the last few days the usual relentless pursuit of anything which can be used to tarnish his reputation. Why do we do this to those who step up to the plate and lead? It's an unsavoury feature of our national life. We need to bear in mind just how much we demand from our chief constables. Mike was a great chief police officer who contributed so much in Manchester and nationally. Let us remember that.

Michael James Todd, police officer: born Barking, Essex 10 August 1957; officer, Essex Police 1976-1995; Assistant Chief Constable, Nottinghamshire 1995-98; Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police 1998-2000, Assistant Commissioner 2000-02; QPM 2001; Chief Constable, Greater Manchester Police 2002-08; married (two sons, one daughter); died Llanberis, Gwynedd 11 March 2008.