Who is Raj Kohli
Great question, I am a product of the values of my parents and the wider guardians (uncles, aunts, older cousins, my Dadidma); my faith; my experiences growing up and the friends I have. If I am the product of all those things then I would be a happy man because all that I have described are wonderful things.
What are your hobbies? Also your favourite book and song?
I love music and I love movies. I used to play football three times a week but I was now middle-aged a number of years ago and then took up golf. Not very good I hasten to add but fun and frustrating all at once. I am no Tiger Woods – more like Raj is in the Woods looking for his ball. Again.
Favourite book – The Godfather by Mario Puzo with the classic line ‘You keep your friends close but your enemies closer’. A more contemporary book is Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty which has a great final few paragraphs.
My favourite group is Deep Purple and therefore my favourite song would be the Deep Purple classic Lazy (which my mum would say is a great description of me).
Who are your role models?
Mum and Dad – you can only be what you see and what I saw were two inspiring, hard-working and selfless people and if I am 1% the person they are then I would be a proud man.
Before joining the police what were you doing?
I had dabbled in doing a post-grad degree in Biomedical engineering (I have a degree in Electronic Engineering) and then considered working in the family business but the draw of the serge blue was too much.
Tell us what is your job?
I am the BCU Commander for Camden and Islington.
Why did you want to join the police force?
I think a number of things, being brought up in an environment where Seva was important, being bullied at school, having a number of army connections in my family, watching the original Dr Who as a 5 yr old (his assistant being Roy Castle who played a police officer), watching police dramas like Z Cars and Juliet Bravo. All these different nudges and influences created my calling to be a police officer.
You were bullied at school, can you tell me about that?
I had my turban knocked off my head regularly. The name-calling. I didn’t tell anyone I internalised it. It didn’t kill me. I had cut hair until I was 12 years old. I then chose to grow my hair (kesh)
What made you decide to keep your hair?
A visit to Harmandir Sahib ( The Golden Temple)
Can you remember your first job as a constable?
I was on a response team at Hayes police station in west London. I have very fond memories of that first posting and recently reconnected with colleagues who inspired and supported me back then – Insp Caroline Fox, Inspector Sue Craven and former Det Sgt Trevor Morgan, They were all constables alongside me at the time and they looked out for and looked after me
In 2012 you were a key player in the Olympics how did that come about?
As a qualified public order officer, I was invited to join the team responsible for delivering ‘Parallel Events’ ie non-Olympic events that needed policing (protests, football, rugby etc). This was a real challenge because of the demand for resources but it will remain one of the best experiences I have ever had.
Is there a particular job that you were dealing with that sticks in your mind? Good or Bad
The Olympics will always stay with me – as will my first posting as a Superintendent at Camden where in partnership with the council and the charity Music and Change (led by the brilliant Dr Charlie Alcock) we had massive reductions in serious youth violence when most of the rest of London saw increases.
One memory that has stayed with me for a quarter of a century is when – at 1am in the morning – I had to tell the parents of a 19 yr boy that he had died in a car accident. Telling a mum and dad that their only son had gone is something I never want to forget because it reminds me of the fragility of life. It breaks my heart even today.
How do you balance workload and family life?
I am not sure I do – I am actually doing this blog whilst on annual leave with you and in Glasgow. I like to remain connected with work and I find it does not encroach on my personal life at all. Of course, there are social events I have had to miss because of work but that is part of the deal.
You drive diversity in the Met Police, why is that so important to you?
Diversity brings new ways of thinking into any organisation – it can breathe life into an organisation, it can open the eyes of an organisation. I used to see SO many talented people – many of whom are from underrepresented groups – overlooked because of subconscious bias that I wanted to be part of the solution. Alongside the great work of many others, the MPS is in a better place getting better.
What is your biggest achievement in your life?
Making my parents proud of me.
Have you ever received any negativity in your police career? If so how did you deal with that?
Being part of any organisation will have its negative experiences – the challenge is to turn it around into a positive. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Have I faced subconscious bias during my career? Undoubtedly, as have others. But even negative energy is an energy that can be used and I hope the positive and negative energy I have faced I have been able to use and make the organisation that bit better.
Being promoted to Chief Supt what an achievement how hard was it to get through the ranks as there is a stigma that BME struggle. But you have flown through your career.
Getting through any organisation needs hard work, luck and support. Trailblazers like Cressida Dick, Tarique Ghaffur, Mike Fuller, Janet Hills and many many others means that it made my journey that bit easier. Having people like Sue, Trevor and Caroline have helped. Having the support of the Sikhs and the wider Asian community has helped. My ‘success’ is owed by many other people.
How do your friends and family feel about your chosen profession?
Initially very reticent – it was the early 90s. They thought the police were ‘racist’ and ‘bullies’ and I would have my locker graffitied etc. In fact, my best friends had an ‘intervention’ – they sat me around a table and interrogated me for 2 hours and I had to convince them I knew what I was doing. I like to think I have made my friends and family proud.
What advice would you give if someone wanted to join the force?
Go for it – it is the best job in the world. You will see and experience things in a day that your friends and family won’t in a year. It is fulfilling and frustrating, fun and fraught, stirring and stalling all at once.
What’s next for Raj Kohli?
The next chapter of my life I hope to involve mentoring and coaching to young people. I would love to set up a foundation where I can help young people. It has been in in my blood since the days when dad was a teacher in a young offenders institute and mum was a social worker. I would like to pass onto others what they passed onto me.
(Chief Supt Raj Kohli also made a statement when Amy Winehouse a famous singer passed away. A lot of people remember Mr Kohli from this.)