Islington and Camden’s top cop on police cuts, catching killers and disrupting drug networks

Ch Supt Raj Kohli. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Ch Supt Raj Kohli. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey - Credit: Archant

Islington and Camden’s highest ranking police officer makes difficult decisions “every day” about which crimes to investigate due to budget cuts.

Ch Supt Raj Kohli. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Ch Supt Raj Kohli. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey - Credit: Archant

But Ch Supt Raj Kohli told this paper that, despite scarce resources, he's confident police can disrupt drug networks around Holloway and Camden Lock and bring Nedim Bilgin and Calvin Bunsiga's killers to justice.

He took the helm at the central north basic command unit (BCU) - the name police use for the two boroughs - in January, and this week confirmed he wants to stay in the post until he retires in three years.

He blamed police cuts on the global recession a decade ago rather than any political party.

"If you take 25pc out of any business it gets by at the salami slicing stage," he said. "We have gone from salami slicing the business to making wholesale changes. I think maybe some form of efficiency was always on the cards because as a public body that takes your money we have to be as efficient as possible.

"But the scale and pace of the resource challenge has caught everyone unawares. It's irrelevant the colour of the government - it's things that happened a decade ago we're still paying for now.

"But it's really hard because I want to do everything for everyone and now I have to think: 'Your car being broken is less of a priority than a child being groomed to sell drugs.' You can't do both."

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Nedim, 17, was stabbed to death in Caledonian Road on January 29 and Calvin, 22, died after he was knifed in Grafton Road on April 1. No one has been charged over either.

But Ch Supt Kohli said: "I have absolute confidence the people investigating will leave no stone unturned and will find out what happened.

"I get briefed on this every week - we are going to get justice for those families."

Another unsolved murder is that of Jonathon "JJ" McPhillips, a father of two, who died days after he was stabbed through the chest in Upper Street in February 2017. Ch Supt Kohli said there are "people out there that know what happened" and that they should tell Crimestoppers. "Even a rumour is something we want to hear about," he added. "Because there is often a grain of truth in gossip."

The 52-year-old said the body of Erik San-Fillipo being found ins a bin in Tollington Road on May 12 was "shocking" - but held back on details as the investigation is ongoing. Pressed on the wider problem of drug dealing and anti social behaviour in this area of Holloway, though - in hotspots such the Morrisons and Waitrose car parks - the police chief said he's determined to squash the problem.

Prior to his arrival there was a "significant operation in Camden" where cops "probably took out 80 per cent of the drug dealers", he said, but the "vacuum" it left has since been filled by others.

"Walking through drug deals near your front door and not feeling safe is unacceptable," he added.

Ch Supt Kohli, who was listening to a jazz cover of Beyonce's Halo during the interview, said he was in New Delhi visiting his wife's family over Christmas. Ch Supt Kohli added: "When I said I was working in Camden, they said: 'That's where people go to buy drugs.' I want to break that cycle and make it [known for] music, artistry, and fashion. That's my goal."

He added: "I have many things to prioritise and for me priorities are: where people in domestic situations are afraid of going home because of what their partner might do to them; exploitation of children, whether it's sexual or criminal - selling drugs or even exploiting them to go to Syria."

He said the latter hasn't happened in either Islington or Camden but it's his job to stop adults "brainwashing" children.

On Monday, police authorised a 12-hour "section 60" giving officers extra stop and search powers across Islington and Camden. it followed "several violent incidents". Asked if gang tensions were running high in these boroughs, he said young people are fighting and hurting each other and then boasting about it on social media. He said people in gangs are sometimes dehumanised and it's natural to want to avenge a friend if they've been hurt or killed - but what's unnatural is when people channel their grief into more violence.

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