Top cop’s 5,000 step charity challenge before retirement

Our Assistant Chief Constable Chris Johnson has retired after almost 30 years serving and protecting people across the West Midlands – but he saved arguably his toughest challenge for his final few days.

Chris spent his entire policing career with his hometown force having worked his way up from beat bobby on the streets of Birmingham to one of our most senior officers.

He’s been Police Commander in Dudley and Birmingham – where he’s remembered for his passionate community policing in the mid-90s – and even oversaw the safe detonation of a huge World War 2 bomb that threatened to destroy parts of Aston in 2017!

And last year the 53-year-old’s achievements won royal recognition when he was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for his “remarkable contribution” to policing in the West Midlands.

In 2018 he was promoted to Assistant Chief Constable – the proudest moment in his police service – but just months later Chris and his family were told he had Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

It’s a terminable illness for which there is currently no cure.

Chris has raised thousands of pounds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association
Chris has raised thousands of pounds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association

ACC Johnson met the devastating news head-on and vowed to continue fighting crime with West Midlands Police for as long as possible.

For the last 18 months he’s continued as ACC overseeing the force’s Operations department – a full-on role with responsibility for traffic policing, dogs, emergency response units, the contact centre and firearms, plus other specialist police teams.

He handed over his warrant card today (25 Sept) but not before completing one final, gruelling challenge.

Chris now relies on a wheelchair to get around but still vowed to walk 5,000 steps in just a fortnight to raise money and awareness for the Motor Neurone Disease.

Chris has been pacing his garden to clock up the steps - but took the final few at police HQ
Chris has been pacing his garden to clock up the steps - but took the final few at police HQ

And he took those final few steps outside West Midlands Police’s HQ at Lloyd House on the final day of his service.

Chris said: “It’s been a genuine honour to have worked with West Midlands Police for so long – and yes it will be a very emotional final day.

“When I got my MND diagnosis I was determined it would not define my policing career. I’ve served the people of the West Midlands for almost three decades; it’s what I’ve achieved over those years that I’ll reflect on.

Visit YouTube to watch Chris' complete his MND steps challenge

“I’ve always relished a challenge and completing 5,000 steps has been really hard work. I did 100 or 150 at a time in the garden – two or three times a day – and managed to inch closer to my target. It was fitting to do the final few steps at work.

“I am determined to remain positive and keep fighting, doing what I can to raise awareness and support to one day help find some form of treatment for those who may be diagnosed in the future.”

In addition to raising awareness for MND – which has included interviews on national TV ad radio – Chris has also used his experience to urge all employers to look past disability when recruiting. 

He added: “West Midlands Police made some simple and cheap adaptations to allow me to continue working since my diagnosis. 

“I have been able to continue to work, which has been important to me. And even through the CoVID lockdown our advances in technology, with police systems-enabled lap-tops and remote meetings, have meant I have still been able to play my part.

“We’ve certainly come a long way since I joined in 1991, which was a time of telex machines, pagers, faxes and an office filled with card index systems!”

Chris has set up a Just Giving page for his 5,000 steps for 5,000 people living with MND in the UK: https://tinyurl.com/y5p8xla3 

For more on the MND Association’s Mission 5000 fundraiser visit: https://tinyurl.com/yxeo7p2x 

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