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Obituary:

In memoriam: Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for Durham

The funeral of Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for Durham Ron Hogg will be held this week (7 January). Ron was an outstanding public servant who made a huge contribution to policing, firstly as a police officer and, latterly, as Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for Durham. His former colleague Ben Twomey shares the valuable lessons he learnt from working with Ron and the legacy he leaves behind.

Ron Hogg died peacefully at the age of 68 on Tuesday 17th December 2019, having been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease earlier in the year. He was the Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner (PCVC) for County Durham and Darlington. Ron’s legacy will outlast us all. He dedicated his life to justice and to making others see the world differently.

Where he saw wrong, he tried to right it. Where he saw suffering, he tried to heal it. His later causes were so vast and complex that many of his peers preferred to shy away from facing up to them.

Working with Ron to advance the cause of sensible and compassionate drug policies will always be a source of great pride for me. I had the privilege to learn so much from Ron, and want to share just three of those lessons here.

Have the courage to stand against all injustices, even if you find yourself standing alone

For me, this is the standout message from Ron’s life. Where he saw wrong, he tried to right it. Where he saw suffering, he tried to heal it. His later causes were so vast and complex that many of his peers preferred to shy away from facing up to them. Ron challenged the cruelty of our laws against assisted dying, the misery of the war on drugs, and the way that victims of crime are systematically treated as an afterthought in policy decisions.

For different reasons, Ron often found himself a lone voice, leading the way in these debates. Ron was the first of the PCCs to come out in favour of radically rethinking our approach to drug addiction. Several others followed, emboldened by Ron’s honesty and conviction. More will surely follow in the near future, thanks to Ron’s powerful and enduring contribution to the debate.

It was Ron’s outgoing personality and sense of fun that made him such a pleasure to work with. The loyalty Ron inspired in colleagues was testament to this.

Ron was a left-wing police officer for more than thirty years. He once remarked to me quite how isolating that was, particularly under Thatcher when he was expected to see unions and miners as “the enemy within”. Ron was always sympathetic to honest people who found their needs completely ignored and their livelihoods threatened. He was sure of himself and his politics. He remained compassionate and grounded, even when it would have been so much easier to simply reflect his environment. Luckily for the communities he worked in, his integrity did not hold him back. Ron rose to the rank of Deputy Chief Constable of Cleveland Police.

Have no shame when it comes to making people laugh

There’s one thing that anyone who knew Ron will understand – his very unique brand of humour does not translate too well into the black and white of a written article… but whether through jokes or pranks or being himself, Ron was always quick to make people laugh.

We will never know if his favourite band really was the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, or whether it was just another way to wind people up. You read that right – not peppers, pipers. “The most famous bagpipe band on the planet” as Ron cheerfully informed anyone subjected to them in his car.

But it was Ron’s outgoing personality and sense of fun that made him such a pleasure to work with. The loyalty Ron inspired in colleagues was testament to this. In a political world that is increasingly divided and bitter, Ron’s humour could brighten anyone’s day. It is a quality often overlooked, but improving people’s lives can involve a lot of meetings, serious discussion and long days. Ron knew that sometimes laughter is all we needed to let off some steam and be re-energised for the battles ahead. Either that, or he just couldn’t help himself when a joke popped into his head…

Value human experiences and put them at the heart of what you do

Ron excelled at connecting with people. He managed the rare balance of being a huge personality while also an intent listener. I am convinced that this quality is what made his campaigns and policies so effective – they were genuinely shaped by the people who they were designed to impact.

During his successful campaign for people’s right to use cannabis medicinally, Ron met with people that politicians had never before even thought about getting to know. He built bridges with local cannabis social clubs, emphasising their shared agenda to get medicine to those in need and to keep organised criminals out of the cannabis trade. He always placed the suffering of the innocent, in this case children, at the heart of his efforts.

Countless people are indebted to Ron’s love of humanity and his ability to listen and reflect the broadest range of experiences and needs.

This commitment to stand up for those who are suffering led Ron to become the first and only Police and Crime Commissioner in the country to add the word ‘Victims’ to his title. ‘Putting victims first’ has been a slogan used for many years by many politicians. Unfortunately, too few have turned those words into action. Ron, drawing on his decades of experience listening to and supporting victims of crime, could use their experience as his strength.

Caring about victims would never be enough for Ron, he wanted to deliver real change for them. He held himself accountable to victims’ needs, with clear reports showing how his changes were faring “from policy to reality”.

Countless people are indebted to Ron’s love of humanity and his ability to listen and reflect the broadest range of experiences and needs.

Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Ron will miss him immensely. While championing compassion he was never one to get too sentimental. I want to ask his advice on where to take the fight next for a better world, but there is no need.

His legacy sets that out so clearly. Learn from it.


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