Farewell to Harrogate police chief

NADV 12092525AM Supt. Aubrey Smith. Picture : Adrian Murray. (12092525AM)
NADV 12092525AM Supt. Aubrey Smith. Picture : Adrian Murray. (12092525AM)

A police officer who rose through the ranks to serve as the commander of Harrogate has stepped down after nearly 30 years with North Yorkshire Police.

Supt Aubrey Smith, Safer Neighbourhood Commander, has been in charge of policing for the Harrogate district for the past two years.

He rose to this rank having served in every posting in Harrogate, from a PC in Starbeck to sergeant, inspector, and superintendent.

Now, eight months shy of retirement, he is to move on to a headquarters role for his final months to allow for a new force-wide policing structure to be brought in with a new Harrogate commander.

“I’m incredibly proud to have been commander in Harrogate,” he said this week. “I’m extremely fortunate to have had the opportunities I’ve had. You can’t put a price on that.

“I’ve achieved what I set out to do. I don’t know how many people can say that towards the end of their careers. It’s a nice way to move on to my future at headquarters.”

Supt Smith began his career as a PC in Thirsk, working in Skipton then Harrogate where he moved to a task force and then CID. He spent time training officers at force headquarters before returning as a community sergeant in Starbeck, commended for his work with youngsters in the community. He’s done stints as a custody sergeant, an inspector and a chief inspector, a district commander in Richmond, as well as head of specialist operations.

“I’ve lived every moment of my career as a police officer,” he said. “If I had the chance, I would do it all again. The highlights and the lows, the laughs, the brotherhood that you share with other officers. I don’t regret a day of it.

“It’s a difficult job, you know that when you start. We don’t deliver winning lottery tickets. We sometimes deal with the worst times in people’s lives. Our job is to make sure that those victims are looked after in the best way and with respect. I consider it an honour and a privilege to have been able to do that.”

He has seen many highlights in his time with the force, he said. Helping co-ordinate the security for the Olympic Torch when it passed through Yorkshire and Humber. For the Queen’s Maundy day visit to York, and for the Lib Dem conference.

A keen footballer himself, he cites policing both Harrogate Town and Harrogate Railways games in the opening rounds of the FA cup as highlights. And of course, the Tour de France as it passed through Harrogate this summer.

“To be a part of that celebration is something I will forever be grateful for,” he said. “It was incredible; it showed what Harrogate can do.”

There have been tough times in recent years, he added. The loss of PC Andrew Bramma in a car crash while on duty in January last year was one of the most sombre moments of his career, he said, along with the long-standing missing person investigation for another former officer, Graham Roskell in 2012.

“That was a hard few days for all of us, with a tragic ending,” he said. “The most important thing is through all the bad times, the team has always felt like a team, almost like a family. Despite the pressures they are under, sometimes on a daily basis, there’s always a positive attitude.”

And, he said, despite all the highs and lows, he would do it all again if he got the chance.

“There are the jobs where, perhaps, you walk away and think you might have saved someone’s life,” he said. “You never know what you’re coming into at the start of every shift. “Sadly, this job doesn’t stop when you’re off duty. Luckily I’ve had the benefit of a very understanding wife and daughter who have supported me through the good times and the bad.

“I’m incredibly fortunate to have finished my operational policing in Harrogate,” he added. “Harrogate is still one of the safest places to live in the country and, according to some surveys, the happiest.”

Supt Aubrey Smith, 50, left his post on Friday to move across to North Yorkshire Police headquarters for his final eight months before retirement, developing a new operational policing structure. He has been replaced by Supt Mike Walker, who has been head of the North Yorkshire Police force control room, and who started this week to introduce the new force-wide policing model which began on Monday.