He joined Sussex Police. After 11 years, in 1990 he moved to Greater Manchester Police as a Superintendent serving initially in Old Trafford, regularly commanded the policing of Manchester United and Manchester City home football games. He then became a Divisional Commander at Bury. Brunstrom was appointed Assistant Chief Constable in the Cleveland Police in September 1995, subsequently promoted to Deputy Chief Constable.
North Wales Police
Brunstrom joined North Wales Police as Deputy Chief Constable in January 2000, and was appointed Chief Constable of the Force in January 2001. Throughout his tenure, Brunstrom has courted controversy with his campaign against speeding drivers, and his support for speed cameras has drawn criticism from motorist groups. His vociferous action against speeding and other traffic crimes has led to his being nicknamed the "Mad Mullah of the Traffic Taliban", and to accusations of being "obsessed" with speeding at the expense of catching other criminals, and led The Sun newspaper to catch Brunstrom's daughter exceeding the speed limit by 19 miles per hour in the family car. Brunstrom claims his policy was responsible for a reduction in traffic injuries. His views on traffic law enforcement caused him to be a consistent subject of ridicule on the BBC Two program Top Gear.
Brunstrom has been praised for his action against anti-social behaviour and his learning and promotion of the Welsh language, and being the first Chief Constable to have his own blog. Previously he was ACPO's head of road policing policy, head of the UK’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, and police co-ordinator on drugs policy across Wales.
In September 2007, as a demonstration of support for Tasers being trialled in rural areas of North Wales, Brunstrom volunteered to be tasered by his fellow officers. Video footage of the event was posted on the force's website; Brunstrom was tasered for 1.5 seconds, and swore as he lost control of his body. Afterwards he described the event as "Not pleasant" and warned "I very strongly advise you, if faced by an officer and a Taser, that you follow the instructions of the nice police officer, because you will not enjoy the consequences of disobedience.".
During refurbishment work at North Wales Police headquarters in December 2007 Brunstrom staged a break-in, scaling scaffolding attached to the building and climbing through a window. It was initially claimed that this was a stunt to expose lax security., but a Freedom of Information request subsequently revealed that this was a fabrication; the real reason for the 'break-in' was that Brunstrom's entry fob no longer worked.
Brunstrom has been praised for his learning and promotion of the Welsh language, in which he holds an A level. This has led to his being created an honorary Druid by the Gorsedd of Bards list at the 2006 National Eisteddfod, and in April 2007 he made a speech to Welsh communities pressure group Cymuned in which he urged politicians to update the 1993 Welsh Language Act, saying he was doing his duty by raising it.
Mark Gibney was a 40-year-old motorcyclist, who was killed in 2003 through decapitation when his bike crashed on a bend on the B5105 between Cerrigydrudion and Ruthin in Denbighshire. In a private presentation to reporters in May 2007 to launch a new approach to speeding via courses and training versus points and fines, Brunstrom used a series of photographs of dead motorists including, without consent, a photograph of Gibney's decapitated body. Brunstrom had the photographs of Gibney, which he described as "outstandingly good", inserted after an earlier draft of the presentation was not "gruesome" enough. Although both Brunstrom and the North Wales Police Authority apologised without reservation to the family, Brunstrom was investigated by the IPCC at the request of the Police Authority, and was given a warning "for failing to warn the family that the images would be used." and for expecting to be able to show the images to reporters without their being reported. Albert Owen, the Labour MP for Anglesey called for Brunstrom to resign as he was "out of control", letting an "overarching zeal to persecute motorcyclists" overcome common sense, and that the controversy surrounding him overshadows the work of the police. When later interviewed about the choice of photograph, Brunstrom apologised to Gibney's family and admitted making a mistake he regretted, but admitted that he would if given the choice use the photograph again but would have approached the family first.
On Monday 23 April 2007 Richard Brunstrom published an entry in his blog containing the location of Denbighshire County Council's replacement CCTV Control Room. In other blog entries, Brunstrom has been very supportive of the use of CCTV in general as a tool in the fight against petty crime and environmental crime, such as dogs defecating in public places.
In August 2008, it was announced that he would be retiring by Christmas 2009. In May 2009, it was announced that he would be retiring in July 2009.
He is married and has a son (born August 1987) and daughter (born November 1984).
- "Interview Jasper Gerard meets Richard Brunstrom". The Times (London). 9 October 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- BBC News: 'Brunstrom: Road to controversy' BBC Wales
- Bio of Brunstrom north-wales.police.uk
- "Police chief denies speed 'obsession'". BBC News. 30 July 2003. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- "Chief's daughter in speed claim". BBC News. 4 October 2003. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- ["http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west/8140400.stm" "Brunstrom on his pride and regret"] Check
|url=value (help). BBC News. 10 July 2009.
- Legalise all drugs: chief constable demands end to 'immoral laws' The Independent - 15 October 2007
- "Chief constable zapped by Taser". BBC News. 5 July 2007.
- "Police chief breaks into his HQ". BBC News. 17 December 2007.
- Walters, Simon (4 August 2008). "Why 'Mad Mullah' police chief Brumstrom REALLY broke into his own HQ...he was locked out". London: Daily Mail News.
- Police chief is honoured as druid BBC Wales - 28 June 2006
- Police chief 'duty' over speech BBC Wales - 15 April 2007
- Watchdog inquiry over biker photo BBC Wales - 1 May 2007
- Brunstrom criticised over photos BBC Wales - 9 November 2007
- The chief who wanted ‘gore’ 10 November 2007
- "'Mad Mullah' police chief caused 'profound distress' by showing photo of headless crash victim". Daily Mail (London). 9 November 2007.
- MP's call for Brunstrom to resign BBC Wales - 18 November 2007
- Brunstrom would show photos again BBC Wales - 20 November 2007
-  Chief Constable's Blog - Friday's Details - 23 April 2007
-  Chief Constable's Blog - Dog Dirt Matters - 26 June 2008
- "Police chief announces retirement". BBC Wales. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-01.