A treasured member of the community, PC John Ajagun, has hung up his hat to pursue his dreams of studying statistics, having loyally served as a police officer in Peckham for decades.
The “big-hearted and always smiling” 62-year-old is returning to his home country of Nigeria to do a PhD in Statistics.
“I am very sad to go,” said John. “Peckham is my second home, we are a big big family here. But that’s destiny, that’s life, we all come and go.”
John arrived in London during the 1980s, as a young man in his late twenties.
During his twenty years of service at Peckham Police Station, he has gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve the community.
“We felt safe with John around,” said Lucy Cope, who worked closely with John through her ‘Mother’s Against Guns’ campaign. “I had the privilege to know him so so many years. He’s an absolute credit to the Metropolitan Police and our community.”
Even when off duty, John answers phone calls from people in need and will check in at their homes to see if they are alright. He is often the first port of call for locals in times of trouble.
“His duty to the people of Southwark is commendable,” said Lucy. “Seven days a week, if anything has kicked off, he will be there. His phone is never off.”
A “Peckham to Lagos” party was planned for John’s retirement this weekend, where his achievements in the force will be recognised by fellow officers and those who knew him.
“I am heartbroken that you’re leaving John,” said Lucy. “I feel like I am losing a good friend. But you deserve to live your life as you so wish. I salute you John, I truly do.”
“You will leave a big dent in many peoples’ hearts,” she added.
John has built a close relationship with locals over the years, where they have come to trust and rely on him.
“I’ve known most of the community since they were teenagers. I know what the youngster’s problems are because I had the same,” John said.
“These are my people,” he added.
Such was John’s affinity with the people of Peckham that he would often patrol the streets alone – a rarity these days.
He recalled an incident while on duty one day where two police officers driving down Peckham High Street pulled over to see if he was alright on his own. Their worries were soon dispelled when several passersby greeted John on first name terms and gave him a friendly embrace.
“This is my patch,” he said. “I am well-known around here.”
Lucy seconded this: “John is one of the only police officers who can walk through Burgess Park and no one will say a word.”
“People trust him.”
As a religious man, John said that throughout his career he always tried to bridge the, at times fractious, gap between the police and wider community. Yet he said that over the years this relationship had improved and things were “much better” now than they were in the past.
John is a regular attendee at events in the local area as the acting police officer, often helping out or lending an ear to people’s concerns. Behind the scenes he has helped out community groups, such as Lucy’s Mother’s Against Guns, taking a hands-on, caring approach.
If he is not too busy with his PhD, John says he has plans to use his diaries to write a short book about his time in the area.
“I will miss Peckham a lot. I have loads and loads and loads of happy memories here.”
“If anybody thinks they can take John’s place, they can think again, ” said Lucy. “These are big boots to fill.”