An former marine is set to take on a new challenge as he takes command in a neighbourhood policing inspector role.
Key skills and experiences learnt in the forces have stood Inspector Rob Lawton in good stead for a career in policing which has seen him work as a close protection officer for royalty and take a lead role in Nottinghamshire Police’s knife crime team. Here he helped drive a national trend-bucking reduction in knife crime after it was introduced.
Now Insp Lawton is set to take up his latest challenge – heading up the local Rushcliffe team as the area’s new neighbourhood commander, covering West Bridgford, Bingham and Trent, Ruddington, Leake and Keyworth as well as Cotgrave and Wiverton.
Policing is a career that Insp Lawton has always admired, even throughout his younger years. Engaging with new groups of people, the varying opportunities and the challenges it presents are all things that he says makes it the perfect career for him.
However, before he was keeping the streets of Nottinghamshire safe, he spent five years serving Queen and country in the Royal Marines in a number of different countries, including Northern Ireland and Iraq.
He said: “I joined up straight after school and spending time serving in the Royal Marines was definitely something which drove home three key requirements they share with the police – discipline, teamwork and the ability to make quick and effective decisions.
“Serving your country in different parts of the world is something that makes you very proud. Your team becomes your family for a while as you work so closely together and having that teamwork was definitely something that helped us do our jobs effectively and kept us safe whilst serving.”
After leaving the Royal Marines, he set about his goal of a career in policing, which started with three years on response in Sutton-in-Ashfield and Mansfield, meaning he would get called to incidents in the local area.
The opportunity to specialise then presented itself and Insp Lawton joined the firearms team, which is part of the force’s operational support department. In this role, he became firearms trained and also became an advanced driver.
Six months into the firearms journey, he became a close protection officer, meaning he was responsible for looking after royalty and other significant figures when they visited the county.
“Being a close protection officer and working with my friends on the close protection team is one of the best times of my career so far looking back,” he said.
“I was really fortunate to work with some amazing colleagues and meet a lot of people in this role as they visited Nottingham, including a number of royal visits by Prince Harry and Prince Charles. It was particularly busy around election periods and I was part of the team tasked with protecting the former Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and other dignitaries when they visited Notts.”
After leaving firearms, Insp Lawton returned to his roots in 2014 as the city centre neighbourhood policing team sergeant – leading initiatives to help vulnerable people and he helped introduce the successful use of a drugs dog in the night time economy, which can still be seen running today.
He went on to work with cadets and special constables as part of the force’s Citizens in Policing Department, which aims to engage with local communities and give young people an opportunity to gain first-hand experience of policing.
A new, specialist role then came up in 2017 with the formation of the force’s first dedicated knife crime team, which works proactively using patrols, intelligence and engagement to intercept those who are carrying knives and those who are deemed at risk of doing so.
“The two years I spent on the knife crime team were fantastic,” Insp Lawton added.
“We were of course a team of officers but we were working as part of the wider knife crime strategy which was introduced at the time, involving the Police and Crime Commissioner and other partners.
“We were able to work with partners to share intelligence to really make a difference to the community.
“This helped us get weapons off the street, seize drugs, and engage with those involved, or at risk of becoming involved in knife crime early – with the aim of preventing those intent on causing harm to themselves and others.
“The great thing about this role was we could really see the impact our work was having when the statistics came in every year. By the time I left in 2019, we were one of the only forces in the country to have seen a reduction in knife crime at that time, which is completely testament to the work of the team.
“To be able to so clearly see the positive impact the team was, and is still is, having on people’s lives is extremely rewarding. Being a part of that initial work has to be one of my proudest moments.”
The latest national statistics showed knife crime in Nottinghamshire fell by 15 per cent in the last financial year.
Since 2019, Insp Lawton has used his knowledge and experience to help manage work within force as a demand management Inspector and assist other members of staff and new recruits as a people’s inspector. During this role, he would be involved in organising staff and leadership training.
He played a key role in Operation Uplift, the government’s recruitment drive for police officers and staff and helped work out where officers should be placed around the force, making sure areas and departments had a balanced, varied and sufficient team at any given time.
This work was crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic, enabling the force to be able to continue to provide an efficient and effective service. It was essential officers and staff were able to continue their work safely, getting laptops out to those who needed to work from home, facilitating personal protective equipment and sanitising products across the force as well as looking at absences and where people might need to cover certain areas to ensure daily business was still able to be fulfilled efficiently.
“The beginning of the pandemic was of course unprecedented and as the situation developed we had to react very quickly and adapt to how we worked,” he said.
“We helped implement the various different ways of managing this, including making it easier to work remotely for those who could do their roles from home; managing the wellbeing of our workforce; and ensuring the necessary protective equipment was available for those who had to be in force and work among their teams.”
Insp Lawton is a hostage and crisis negotiator, and is also a qualified coach and trained to support colleagues after a traumatic incident.
He takes all this experience with him as he takes on his new role as Neighbourhood Policing Inspector for Rushcliffe, a job which he says brings together everything he enjoys about policing and everything he has learned in the past.