Superintendent Sharn Basra joined Bedfordshire Police in 1992 as a police constable on patrol in Bedford. 23 years later, he is a Superintendent based in Luton, responsible for local policing for the South of the county. He tells us about his journey with the force…
I joined the force at 19 after I’d finished my A-Levels, as I thought the police could offer something different and exciting, and I wanted to do something to help people. It’s safe to say that over 20 years on I have made that job into a career, I’m still helping the community and I still enjoy every single day.
I started as a constable based at Greyfriar’s Police Station, and stayed in that role for about 5 years. One of the very first jobs I went to was a burglary; an elderly lady had come home after shopping and found her front door was open. She called the police as she was scared to go inside.
When I arrived I went inside with her, she had been burgled and the offender had taken things that had belonged to her husband, who had sadly died, and grandchildren.
When I handed it over to the detective to investigate, I realised that I wanted to be the one to find out who did it. This really shaped my future with the force.
I then completed a series of attachments to different squads, spending time in CID and Intelligence, and realised that I liked the investigative side of things.
After spending time in uniform, I moved to CID and into plain clothes. At that time CID still investigated things like murder. It was while working in CID that I decided I wanted to work on these investigations more frequently, and I would eventually spend time working in the Major Crime Unit.
I’d say my best time in force was as a Detective Constable because I was involved in a whole host of investigations and I made some really great friends. The beauty of working for a relatively small force is that I know I can still rely on some of those people today.
The good thing about working for the police is that there are so many opportunities to develop and so many different departments you can specialise in.
In 2005 I passed my Sergeant’s exam, and went back into uniform for a year as a section Sergeant, spending time working in Custody. I enjoyed this as I was supervising and mentoring younger officers.
I’m a trained mentor and now help new officers through their early years as a constable; the biggest problem is that people don’t believe in themselves, and so I want to try and pass on some confidence so people feel they can achieve their potential.
There weren’t so many people from BME communities working within the crime domain at the time so I started mentoring as I think it’s important to support and encourage people to take the opportunities available to them.
In 2008 I passed my Inspectors exam, and moved on to become a Detective Inspector in Dunstable, running proactive and reactive teams including the burglary squad, robbery squad and people dealing with serious assaults and sexual offences. That was the largest amount of people I’d ever managed, and for the first time I was reporting up to senior management. Happily, my teams were amongst the highest performing teams in the county.
In 2009 I joined the Major Crime Unit (MCU). On my first day we had a murder, but I’m pleased to say that our work led to a conviction.
In fact, every murder I’ve investigated has led to a conviction which I am particularly proud of.
When you’re working on murder investigations, you’re dealing with some of the worst crimes that people can suffer, and although you have an outstanding team, you are the one responsible for leading that investigation.
You get very involved in the investigations; they’re pretty intense for the first 48 or 72 hours but the real work starts when someone is charged. You have to make sure you get that person to court and get justice for the family, who have lost something you can never imagine. One of the last cases I worked on in the MCU took two years to get a conviction. This case involved a 20 year dispute, and the facilitator had fled to Europe. It is completely worth the work when you get a result.
Within the MCU I was promoted to DCI, and with this came more responsibility as I became the regional lead for kidnapping and extortion.
I was then promoted and came back into the force in 2015 as Detective Superintendent and head of the Public Protection Unit, before moving again at the end of the year into my current role.
I am now responsible for local policing for the South of the county, providing community policing and keeping communities safe. This includes overseeing Operation Meteor which is an on-going operation, committed to disrupting nuisance and dangerous off-road biking.
I’m immensely proud of what I’ve achieved so far, and over 20 years later I’m still enthusiastic about serving the county.
Throughout my career I’ve received Chief Constables Commendations, and Judge Commendations, which is when a Crown Court Judge commends your work. The satisfaction in this job is getting justice for the families of victims, but it is always nice to be recognised for your efforts by others.
Now, part of the satisfaction of my role is seeing others making a difference to Bedfordshire’s communities. When people send in letters of thanks, it’s nice for me to see that my teams have the same sort of desire as I have, and to know we are making a difference.
I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve, so anything more than this is a bonus. I’m happy that I still enjoy every day; you never know what will happen, and that’s part of the excitement.
Recruitment for Police Officers is now open and closes on the 15th May. You can apply here.