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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Police Academy UK: Gonzalo Londoño

Gonzalo Londono

From: Bogota, Colombia

Age: 43 years

Rank: Colonel (equivalent to Chief Constable)

Interests: Loves playing golf with heads of state.

Mission in the UK: To seek out how the dealing of drugs is handled by the British police. He wants to correct the poor reputation for crime Colombia has, around the world.

Skills: An expert marksman who has been fighting the drug cartels all his career.

Other: Gonzalo is at the forefront of his country's fight against crime. For him, policing is a way of life and he loves his job as a high ranking officer. He was recently involved in busting the biggest drug crime of the year with a cocaine seizure of over half a billion pounds. There is a strong need for military style policing in his country because of the drug unions and frequent murders so he was looking forward to coming to the UK to learn from the UK police force.

Why did you decide to take part in the show?

I found this programme to be a great opportunity to show the UK audience how deeply we in Colombia are involved in the struggle against crime – especially in counter-narcotics. On the other hand, I also wanted the chance to show my country as a beautiful safe place to visit, with a very capable police force. To represent my country and my force is a responsibility that you can't refuse.

How did you find the experience?

I found it very interesting, not only because of the chance to know how the UK police deal with the crime on the field but also to share time with my fellow colleagues, from different countries, cultures, genders and ranks.

This mixture of things was at the same time a kind of "social experiment". The good thing was that at the end, all of us became close friends, we learned how to interact with others without any clashes. It's amazing to see how police officers are a worldwide family with the same soul.

What surprised you most about British policing?

I am impressed by how patient and calm a UK officer can be. I was expecting more respect from the British public towards its police force but unfortunately it wasn't like that. It's a pity that young people in the UK show a bad attitude towards the police officers most of the time. On the other hand, it's very interesting the management system of the UK police regarding the use of force.

Did you pick up anything from your time with the British police that you will take back to your own force?

I am implementing in the field in Colombia some of the best practices I saw. For example, the inter-agency work to control the nightlife. Here we used to do that, and I think the Gwent Police mobile police station that they launched recently with flat TVs showing the promotional police videos and handing out lollies and water is something that helps a lot to build bridges between the people and the police. We adapted the basic model and we add other duties such as youth control, traffic police check points, drug awareness, alcohol smuggling, etc.

What was the biggest difference between our police force and yours?

We are a national police force that has to deal with local problems but also with trans-national crime. Because of that, we have more than 160,000 men and women. Ours is a huge force if you make a comparison with a police force like Gwent in Wales.

Ceremony and discipline is a must for us which I think is another big difference.

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