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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 21:31 GMT
Paddick greets Lambeth rally
Commander Brian Paddick
Commander Paddick stands by his policing methods

The embattled Metropolitan Police commander who oversaw a radical shift in drugs policy in south London, only to be moved to a new job amid allegations about his private life, has spoken publicly of his determination to return to his former post.

All I want to do is come back and serve the people of Lambeth

Commander Brian Paddick

Commander Brian Paddick, until last week one of the most senior and influential policeman in London, told hundreds of supporters that he had received messages of support from around the UK, including from former senior officers.

The controversial policeman pioneered a strategy in Lambeth, south London, to shift policing away from cannabis arrests and towards tackling street crime before newspaper allegations that he had smoked the drug himself.

A cross-community campaign in Lambeth is lobbying for his return, saying that the highest-ranking publicly gay policeman in Britain has been the victim of homophobic vilification.

Unexpected arrival

Mr Paddick made his surprise public appearance at a public meeting in Brixton organised to launch the campaign for his reinstatement.

More than 200 members of the public cheered the 43-year-old officer who was flanked by London Mayor Ken Livingstone's race advisor Lee Jasper.

Brian Paddick at the meeting in Brixton, alongside him is Detective Chief Inspector David Michael
Paddick thanks Lambeth

"I just wanted to come along and thank all of you here and the hundreds of people who have written in support, who have also emailed me, from the grandmother in Scotland to the former chief constable of Devon and Cornwall.

"That's the range of support."

"All I want to do is come back and serve the people of Lambeth. I hope that I'm going to be able to do that very soon."

He left without further comment and declined to say whether his superiors knew that he would be attending the meeting.

Mr Paddick was moved to a desk job after his former partner claimed in a Sunday newspaper that they had shared cannabis joints.

Allegation denied

The policeman denies having smoked the drug, but has admitted that his former partner did smoke cannabis.

However, almost all of the audience at the public meeting expressed support for Mr Paddick, saying that his innovative approach to community policing was changing the face of one of the most difficult policing areas of London.

Campaign posters put up in Lambeth
Campaigners demanded his return

Mr Jasper opened the meeting with a letter of support from Mr Livingstone, praising the officer and accusing newspapers of homophobia.

Other speakers said that Mr Paddick had been responsible for changing the face of policing in Brixton, historically one of the areas of highest tension in London.

Kevin Boyle, of the Lesbian and Gay Police Association, said: "Brian Paddick is a victim of the most outrageous press campaign to vilify him and weaken his resolve.

"They raided his bedroom and violated his privacy in a naked display of homophobia."

Success

Mr Paddick is currently awaiting the results of an internal investigation into the allegations against him.

Last week, a Scotland Yard report revealed that crime rates had fallen while arrests for serious drugs offences had risen in Lambeth following the beginning of Mr Paddick's policy.

Home Secretary David Blunkett, who has signalled his intention to reclassify cannabis as a less serious drug, has closely watched the Lambeth experiment.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Penny Wrout
"Those speaking in support included a rabbi and a minister"
Commander Brian Paddick addresses Lambeth rally
"All I want to do is to come back and serve the people of Lambeth"
Commander Paddick interviewed on Today programme
"What has my sexuality got to do with my ability"

Click here to go to BBC London Online
Find out more about the Commander Brian Paddick

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