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West Norfolk leader talks shop as ex colleague made top cop





It is a small world and six degrees of separation is the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other.

But in West Norfolk it seems it is even fewer than that, with three in my case connecting a mutual friend and their former colleague.

New West Norfolk Council leader Stuart Dark at his desk (53577717)
New West Norfolk Council leader Stuart Dark at his desk (53577717)

Stuart Dark, is leader of West Norfolk Council and after spotting that he was in the Metropolitan police before this, I asked him at an event we were attending if he knew a pal of mine, Sir Mark Rowley.

Turns out Mr Dark does know Mark, who is now retired from the Met and so I lent him my signed copy of The Sleep Of Reason, a novel that Mark has written with another friend, journalist David Derbyshire.

The title alludes to the Spanish painter Francisco Goya where he explored the struggle between reason and imagination, with the full meaning being the sleep of reason produces monsters out of men.

The Sleep of Reason is written by journalist David Derbyshire and Mark Rowley with whom Stuart Dark worked with in the Metropolitan Police. (57646502)
The Sleep of Reason is written by journalist David Derbyshire and Mark Rowley with whom Stuart Dark worked with in the Metropolitan Police. (57646502)

Goya might be saying that if we keep sleeping, our dreams and imaginations can lead us to foolishness and insanity, and therefore we must wake up to reality.

The novel is a gripping thriller with a female protagonist, Detective Superintendent Sophie Gabriel, on the trail of a killer.

Both Mr Dark and Mark worked together in the Met force in serious and organised crime with Mark who, after being in the final two in the running for the post of Commissioner having retired, has in the last week successfully been appointed as top cop.

New West Norfolk Council leader Stuart Dark at his desk (53577717)
New West Norfolk Council leader Stuart Dark at his desk (53577717)

Mark said: "Stuart Dark was a very talented police officer who was great fun to work with as we worked together tackling gangs.

"Given his dedication for public service I am not surprised he has gone into local government after his policing career."

Mr Dark, who retired as a detective superintendent and worked in roles in serious crime such as a threat to life tactical advisor, a strategic firearms commander and as a kidnap serious investigation officer took, the book away to read.

Sir Mark Rowley, National Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing.Sir Mark is involved with The independent Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) as they launch a legal review, to examine whether existing legislation adequately deals with hateful extremism.Picture by Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd for The independent Commission for Countering Extremism (57691531)
Sir Mark Rowley, National Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing.Sir Mark is involved with The independent Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) as they launch a legal review, to examine whether existing legislation adequately deals with hateful extremism.Picture by Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd for The independent Commission for Countering Extremism (57691531)

He gave me his feedback about it and some personal anecdotes of working with Mark in the police force.

He said: "A lot of the book is around the type of stuff we did.

"Having been in a role where the boss is making the decisions there is a degree of authenticity written from a viewpoint of someone who knows what they're talking about.

"In a lot of books and movies there is a formula of a hero, the hero does something wrong and then the hero saves the day.

"This book however shows the team effort where the teams comes together, and it is written in a way that is interesting and there's a lot that is methodical.

"What was nice about this book is that it's not about someone being a maverick, it is supported by a number of people who are simply good at their jobs."

Mr Dark has had a fascinating career in the police, starting at the age of eighteen and a half after deciding that an academic route or a nine to five office job might not be for him.

Even though his father was also in the Met, this was not the deciding factor for him, although ultimately he followed in his father's footsteps.

He said: "My dad is really great and I had a great childhood and didn't intend to go into the police.

"I applied for the Met as I was interested in doing something that was public service."

Mr Dark speaks highly of his dad who he took with him when he was commended by Cressida Dick, when she was in post as commissioner at the Met.

He said: "One of the times I was commended by Cress I took my dad with me and she recognised his police retirement tie and spoke to him for 40 minutes.

"He was so chuffed."

Mr Dark, who worked as a kidnap senior identification officer, has received an MBE and the UK's highest operational police honour, the Commissioner's High Commendation, for not only his work in the UK for the Snettisham world war memorial project, but also when he travelled to Thailand the day after the Tsunami hit on Boxing Day in 2004.

Working at such a high level in the police and now as leader of West Norfolk council Mr Dark is down to earth and talks about his police career with enthusiasm,recognising some of his own experiences in The Sleep of Reason.

He said: "There are twists and turns in a career in the police and there are so many duties you can specialise in, such as underwater recovery search teams, dog and horse handlers and even helicopters.

"It is clear in the book that Mark has been there, seen it and done it.

"The team operating effectively gets the result and what is good about the book is it's not just about an individual, but about the team.

"Team players are worth their weight in gold."

Being London born and bred, home for Mr Dark is being in Snettisham with wife Kerry, who served in the force as a police officer where they met, and their children.

Having met the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles in formal situations, he reflected on the West Norfolk connection between the royals and Sandringham, as being a special one.

It is a small world indeed.



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