OVER TO YOU: PC David Williamson (left) hands over his beat covering the upper Gaunless Valley and eastern Teesdale to PC Rob Booth
OVER TO YOU: PC David Williamson (left) hands over his beat covering the upper Gaunless Valley and eastern Teesdale to PC Rob Booth

A POPULAR police officer who has served Teesdale for more than 15 years is handing in his warrant card today.

PC David Williamson, who covered a large area from Woodland and the upper Gaunless Valley to as far east as Gainford and Hutton Magna, officially retires on January 3.

The neighbourhood bobby is best known for the network of contacts and close relationships he forged with the communities he served.

During his 23-year career he has amassed a hoard of superintendent commendations and awards.

Although born in Melsonby, North Yorkshire, the PC grew up around Barnard Castle, and despite studying to be a teacher at Warwick University, he initially followed in his father Leslie’s footsteps by taking on farm work.

He also worked as a driving instructor before joining the Durham Constabulary at the turn of the millennium.

He said: “I wanted to do a job that was more community focussed and more diverse. I worked on response for eight years and I was an acting sergeant for four years.”

Postings during this period included stints at Newton Aycliffe, Shildon and Spennymoor before he joined Barnard Castle Neighbourhood Police Team.

The 56-year-old said: “I thought that was where my career was going with promotion, but in 2008 I became a beat officer here and, following that, really found my passion was in neighbourhood policing.

“After that I didn’t want promotion, I preferred to be working in Teesdale.

“The highlight has been just working with the rural community, people in villages, parish councils, committed and dedicated individuals, problem solving, building up friendships and having those strong links because we police by consent, but we also police by forging those links with people.”

The PC said one of the challenges he faced when initially arriving the area was anti-social behaviour but that had been tackled well and the current challenges are mostly to do with rural theft.

He added: “I suppose the other challenge is being able to support a network in such a large area and it has become greater as resources have diminished.”

Working in a rural area also has some strange call-outs which urban police are unlikely to encounter.

Mr Williamson said: “It is very rare in Teesdale that you would rescue something like sheep from someone’s swimming pool and that [we thought] was to do with anti-social behaviour.

“It was a very hot day and I can remember coming down the dale and saying ‘I wonder if the kids had snuck into the swimming pool. I arrived to find they hadn’t but the sheep had.”

PC Williamson, who will be enjoying travelling the UK, Europe and worldwide, as well as walking, in his retirement, admitted feeling a little sad about handing in his warrant card.

He said: “I am going to miss the community. I am certainly going to miss a lot of people and I will miss policing, but I won’t miss the bureaucracy and the admin side of things. I enjoyed the law and I enjoyed working with everybody, good or bad.”

Taking over from PC Williamson is PC Rob Booth, who already has experience of the area having worked as a special constable in Teesdale.

PC Williamson said: “He got furloughed from work during Covid and he came to work with me for about a year-and-a-half, so he has got the experience. He is keen and he is good.”