Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Service’s Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations and national lead for Counter-Terrorism Policing, has announced his intention to leave policing in order to pursue new challenges. Rowley will be retiring from policing after 31 years’ service having joined the ranks as a constable in the West Midlands Police back in 1987 and progressing to lead the UK’s national Counter-Terrorism Policing network at a time of unprecedented threat.
After serving as chief constable of Surrey Police, Rowley joined the Metropolitan Police Service as Assistant Commissioner in December 2011 whereby he oversaw work in areas including organised crime, sexual violence and other major forms of criminality.
Most importantly, perhaps, Rowley took on responsibilities for changing the Metropolitan Police Service’s approach towards public order and countering gangs in the wake of the 2011 riots.
In June 2014, Rowley was appointed head of Metropolitan Police Service Specialist Operations and as national lead for UK Counter-Terrorism Policing only the day before Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of a so-called “worldwide caliphate”.
Since that time, Rowley has been at the forefront of driving UK policing efforts to counter and mitigate the threat from Daesh as well as that posed by other terrorist groups and violent extremist threats, including working with MI5 and other intelligence agencies to successfully stop 23 attacks since the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich in 2013.
The transformation led by Rowley has enabled counter-terrorism officers to double the number of arrests made as they work to counter the terrorist threat. In the last year, there were 460 arrests. Rowley led policing through the tragic events of 2017, where all of these capabilities were deployed and robustly tested and found to have saved lives.
Community policing advocate
A keen advocate for community policing and the Prevent programme throughout his service, Rowley was instrumental in transforming counter-terrorism policing capability through boosting preparedness, Command and Control doctrine and specialist counter-terrorism armed policing and also increasing the ‘join-up’ with community policing, while always furthering the already close working relationship with MI5 and other intelligence partners.
Announcing his retirement from policing, Rowley said: “I’m as proud of the police service today as I was when starting on the beat in Birmingham back in 1987. Every day, I continue to witness the selfless and unwavering commitment of all involved in protecting and serving the public. I really have loved every role I’ve performed, but three stand out for me: those first days as a West Midlands police constable and later as chief constable of Surrey, an innovative force delivering pioneering community policing. However, my tenure in the Met, leading the national Counter-Terrorism Policing network at the most extraordinary time, has been the greatest privilege.”
Rowley added: “I’m incredibly proud to have led Specialist Operations and the Counter-Terrorism Policing network, and will always be in awe of the men and women who have worked tirelessly over the last few years to help keep the public safe, whether they were safeguarding vulnerable people against radicalisation, boosting the protection and security of people and places or pursuing record numbers of terrorists to stop their attacks. Their commitment when the threat has evolved and grown so dramatically has been truly extraordinary.”
Rowley continued: “It was immensely sobering, but nonetheless the greatest honour for me, to lead the response to last year’s terrible events in Manchester and London, where I witnessed the extraordinary bravery and compassion of UK policing. It’s therefore no surprise to me to learn that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services recently noted the public’s confidence in the police service to protect them against terrorism has, in the toughest year in decades, increased markedly. It has also been a privilege to have worked with two talented Metropolitan Police Service Commissioners, numerous chief constables around the country and an outstanding director general of MI5. I now plan to catch my breath and then pursue fresh challenges.”
Contribution to policing
Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Cressida Dick has praised Rowley’s contribution to policing London and the UK. The Commissioner said: “Mark will be a huge loss to policing. He has dedicated himself to protecting and serving the public and should be immensely proud of everything that he has achieved. Mark has always been a fantastic colleague, and I’m personally very grateful to him for the support he has shown me since my return to the Metropolitan Police Service. He has been a thoughtful and innovative police officer and leader in the West Midlands, Surrey, at the Met and of the national counter-terrorism network.”
The Commissioner went on to state: “Over the past few years, Mark has built the capability of UK Counter-Terrorism Policing to one that’s envied around the world. As the threat has developed, he has led officers and staff in London, the UK and across the globe such that we’re able to do everything possible to take on the terrorists who want to destroy the freedom and democracy we all enjoy. He led us through the attacks last summer, all the while providing a reassuring, calm and effective response to what were tragic events. I wish Mark well for the future. We should all thank him for the leadership and professionalism he has given policing throughout his career.”
Rowley will continue to lead Specialist Operations and the national Counter-Terrorism Policing network until March this year, whereupon his successor will take the baton for this critical national security role. The recruitment process for Rowley’s replacement will begin in due course.
The view from Government
Home Secretary Amber Rudd stated: “I want to thank Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley for his commitment to tackling the terrorist threat during his time as national policing lead for counter-terrorism. His leadership was especially apparent following the attacks last year when he provided the public with reassurance that we were being kept safe. Mark leads from the front, having won the respect of both his colleagues and peers. He works tirelessly to protect us, while ensuring justice is served to those intent on causing us harm. Working with the security services, his time leading Counter-Terrorism Policing has seen many potentially fatal terrorist plots foiled. I’m grateful to Mark for his long service, and I look forward to working closely with him until his retirement from policing in March. I wish him every success for the future.”
Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London, remarked: “Over 31 years of service, Mark has risen through the ranks from his beginnings as a beat constable in the West Midlands to become Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police Service and the country’s most senior counter-terrorism officer. That progression is a testament to his skill, tenacity and dedication. These are qualities I’ve seen time and again during the period that we’ve been working together. On behalf of all Londoners, I want to thank Mark for his unwavering leadership, and especially so last year in the face of unprecedented terrorist attacks in London, not to mention the large number of terror attack attempts he and his team were able to prevent. I wish him all the very best for his retirement.”