An Interview with Inspector Lutkin
Jonathan Lutkin retired last month, marking the end of a 26-year-long service in the Royal Gibraltar Police. We take a look at the highlights of his remarkable career.
Jon was born in Norwich in 1967, where he grew up before becoming a soldier at the age of 16.
After passing out in 1984, he joined the Royal Anglian Regiment (the Vikings) and after initial training he was posted to Northern Ireland for two years, until February 1987.
The following month he was posted to Gibraltar for two years as part of the resident battalion (around 400 soldiers) at South Barracks, which is now St Joseph’s School.
Jon, 55, an avid Norwich City and Leicester Tigers fan, explained: “It was a long time ago. I enjoyed Gibraltar and decided to stay. So, I got a local discharge, which was quite unusual at the time. I initially worked for Blands for three months, cleaning cars for the car rental company Avis, which was something completely new.”
He described how Gibraltar was a very different place in 1987.
“There were very few high-rise buildings,” said Jon.
“Most things were centred around Main Street. There was a completely different outlook, it was very much more community based and everyone knew everyone in their neighbourhood. The main employer was the MoD Dockyard, even though that was starting to change."
“There was nowhere near as many restaurants as nowadays, as people tended to eat at home a lot more. Entertainment was more focused on going out to dances and more formal events. People would go up to the old Casino, or the Caleta Palace, to watch a live band for the night. You wouldn’t go over to Spain as much as now. You stayed in Gibraltar, where there were military bars and local bars, with most of the military bars were on Main Street.”
After applying for both the RGP and the GDP (the latter was formerly called the Gibraltar Services Police), Jon joined the GSP, where he worked for the next seven years.
And it was during this time that John helped police the fast launch disturbances and subsequent public demonstration, when the GSP was called upon to support the RGP.
So, when there was a threat of redundancies at the GSP, Jon applied to join the RGP. And on the 2nd of January 1997, along with 24 other recruit officers, including Cathal Yeats, Paul Chipolina, Sean Perera and Kevin Fortuna (all still serving), he became an RGP officer at the sprightly age of 28.
He continued: “Back then there were only four Response Teams, not the five we have now. I spent six years on the same shift. When I joined Red Shift, the least experienced officer had been in for eight years! We had officers on shift who had been in for 25 years and knew the streets of Gibraltar like the back of their hands.”
“They knew where every single observation point was, where you could go up on top of a building and keep a lookout. They would go around and turn the padlocks; if there was something wrong and they would spot it straightaway because they were so used to what the streets were like in those days. It was a completely different style of policing.
“Everything was based around Main Street. We would have patrols of Upper and Lower Town, the back streets, Line Wall Road and sometimes we’d might have someone going into the Northern Estates. The reclamation had just taken place. There was no Morrisons or anything like that, there was the old Lipton in Marina Bay, that was the big supermarket.
“Officers weren't allowed to come into the police station during their shift. You were expected to go out and patrol. And you came in when your allocated mealtime was – and that was it!”
Jon added that paperwork was a lot easier when he started, explaining that a crime report would need a single form to be filled out. “We didn't have domestic violence forms, we had nothing like that. A court docket (the paperwork an officer needs to produce when they charge someone) was a cover, a summary, a charge sheet and that was about it. You’d write your statements if they pleaded not guilty.”
And when asked what his career highlights were, Jon replied that he “thoroughly enjoyed” training.
“I joined the department in 2003 after six years on shift. I've always been someone who likes to see the development of people. It gives me good job satisfaction. I've always enjoyed helping others to develop – and I'm still doing it now. I'm looking at promotion packs for people, to give them pointers, and I'm still doing the occasional training session.
“The development of people has always been something that's very close to my heart. And it is very, very satisfying to see how officers you've trained blossom into the individuals they become.”
After doing the 2003 Training School, John completed an eleven-week Trainers Course in the UK, and then remained in Training until 2010, before getting promoted to Sergeant in 2011.
Commenting on his promotion, he said: “Rather than calling me into the office like they normally do, Mr. Wink (the Commissioner at the time) and the Command Team walked into the Training classroom and stopped the lesson. And I thought what’s happening? I was relieved when the Commissioner told me I was being promoted to Sergeant and everyone applauded. I was very happy to get promoted, but it wasn’t something that I was expecting. It’s never been done like that before, and it’s never been done like that since!”
Jon, who dipped in and out of training until 2013, added: “I've trained nearly 200 recruits, a lot of them are still in the service and a lot of them are doing very well. Numerous Inspectors, Sergeants and a Chief Inspector have been trained by me. And it's very, very gratifying to see how they have grown and progressed.”
Another career highlight for John was the introduction of PACE (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act) in 2011 and 2012 in Gibraltar, which was a huge shake up of police powers on the Rock, which mirrored the change in UK policing.
Jon explained: “I was part of the team that did that. We were doing 16-hour days for five or six months and we were all awarded Commendations for our efforts.
“Basically, we had to completely re-write all the training with regards to the law. It took us six months under my old Chief Inspector David Smith, who did an incredible job to complete it in such a short time.
“It was a constantly evolving job, as there were things that did not fit with the Gibraltar legislation, so we had to make representations to change it. Such as the inference to silence (in the UK, an inference can be drawn if a suspect is silent when questioned under caution, but not in Gibraltar). The UK has it, but we removed it.”
In 2013, Jon taught his last school and moved back onto a Response Team as a Sergeant.
Explaining why he left the Training Department, he said: “There was no challenge for me anymore and I really wanted to go back to shift as a Sergeant. I was very, very happy running my own team. It’s not just about policing, it’s about developing officers, looking after their welfare and looking after the team as a whole. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would have stayed there to be quite honest, but I was persuaded, to apply for Inspector, as that was what management wanted for me.”
Jon was promoted to Inspector in October 2018, taking the role of Operations Inspector, before completing another six months in Training and moving to his current role as the Inspector in Resource Management. In more recent years, he was successful in passing the College of Policing’s Public Order, Public Safety Bronze Commanders’ Course and the Events Course, enabling him to ensure the public’s safety at major events, such as football matches, political demonstrations and music festivals.
But what is the best thing about being a police officer, according to Jon?
“Making a difference.”
“You help people. Yes, we go out there and we arrest offenders, but by dealing with an offender, we're also helping a victim. And of course, there is helping officers to develop. That's always been at the forefront of what I consider to be policing.”
“We all have bad days. We all have days that we do things that we reflect on and say ‘yeah, we could have done it better’. And I've had many of those days. But there's always been a lot more good days than bad days.”
As for how he plans to spend his well-earned retirement, he said: “I’m not sure where my path leads now, but it will involve travel and seeing places in the world I have not seen, together with my wife.”
“I’d like to see a lot more of Spain and Europe. I’m very keen on travelling and food, I do a lot of food tours.”
Jon will also be able to spend more time as a Freemason, as well as looking after ex-RGP explosives dog Spencer, who Jon and his wife adopted in May 2020 after he retired from service.
So, looking back on his career in the RGP, would Jon recommend this line of work to anyone who is thinking of becoming a police officer?
He added: “Being a police officer is a very difficult career. It has numerous challenges and you need a very thick skin. But the satisfaction you get from making a difference to the public and in helping your colleagues makes it a very worthwhile career. It’s been my life and I've made many friends both inside and outside of the force. And if I had the chance, I would do it all again.”