When I was a young lad I would watch TV Programs such as The Bill where I would see Pc Tony Stamp (Twitters – @grahamcoleact) booting round Sun Hill in a marked up Ford Sierra chasing baddies. I knew at this young age that was the job I wanted to do. Like many people this is what (at the time) I thought policing was all about. The idea of fast driving, excitement, the action, and dare I say it the old fashioned way in which the Relief (shift) would all de-kit and head down the pub as a team appealed to me.
As I grew older I learned a lot about the job from an Uncle who at the time was a serving Inspector within Warwickshire Police (then Warwickshire Constabulary). I started to realise that the job was about improving the life of others and the chasing people around etc was heavily outweighed by the day to day police work. Armed with this new information I was still as determined as before to be a police officer.
Jumping ahead a good few years I had decided that I wanted to join the Army, but that itch to go into police work was still there. I still could not decide between the Army or the Police so I joined the Territorial Army to get a taste of Army life and yes you guessed I joined the Royal Military Police. The best of both worlds, great! But my Army career was cut short due to a change of circumstances.
In the January of 2005 I joined Sussex Police as a Police Community Support Officer. It was not the policing role I wanted to do but at the time recruitment for police officers was not an option. Trained under the command of Twitter’s https://twitter.com/ChInspDerrick (then working in the Sussex Police Training Dept) I was taught various things around Neighbourhood Policing with a view to hitting the streets and working to help the community. It was far from the police work that I wanted to be doing at that time but it was a start. I left the Pcso role in 2007 for a number of reasons that included a change of circumstances and due to the fact that my proactive nature started to cause friction as I would get highly annoyed at doing what I saw as half a job. By that I mean targeting crime but then not being able to arrest when catching people in the act. It was not the force but the role that my problem. I ended up moving away and from there (again down to police officer recruitment being non existent) I joined the Special Constabulary.
Great I thought! Crime fighting with proper powers to do the job. Everything I ever wanted. But my journey was just beginning. This is where i start to examine the divide between the two types of policing.
My first policing role within the Specials was on the Community Team. I loved the freedom of being able to book on duty, grabbing my traditional police helmet and pounding the beat. The great outdoors, the people, the exercise. I got to know my neighbourhood and I developed several community contacts that I could call in on for a cup of tea when out on foot. I would gain intelligence that lead to arrests, I would have time to sit and spend time with crime victims and provide them with what I saw as a proper service and by this I mean not leaving until they were completely reassured or give the correct advice. I did however have an itch for action and I would sometimes get a shiver if when walking along a police car with sirens on flew past. Damn I want to go I would often think.
I liked the slower pace and it made me think that this is exactly what the good old British Bobby did in years gone by. However I did not always have the freedom to just pound the beat. I would be assigned jobs to deal with on my ward and I would often patrol with the local Pcso. I had days where I wanted to bang my head against a brick wall because two neighbours would not be adults and would have childish arguments over things such as boundary disputes or even worse parking. It was here that I developed a hatred towards Facebook as often I would end up in the middle of completely pointless disputes over comments posted. On some days it felt that I was a dumping ground for response officers who would arrive at a job knowing it was (how an I put this) a load of dribble and it would simply be bounced over to neighbourhood as a neighbour dispute. Thanks I used to think but these days were outweighed by the days where I went home knowing I had made a difference to someone else. In fact when I look at my career all of my letters of thanks and even commendations from senior officers resulted in community work. Also to add the biggest arrest of my career was made on a community team.
Having flew through my probation I joined a response team. This is where my childhood dream would be achieved I thought. How wrong was I? Yes for a few months the going to a job with lights and sirens was exciting but this soon wore off after arriving at many jobs and having to suffer the aftermath that followed (aggressision, dis satisfaction from the public, paperwork, scene guards etc). All of a sudden the images of the Sun Hill area car seemed fraudulent.
Response policing by its name is a reactive style of policing. Parading with numbers that at first really shocked me (was expecting a hell of a lot more given the population we served) I soon realised that response policing was more like being a slave to the radio but I still enjoyed doing it. Turning up when someone was in need and doing my bit was pleasing, even if I went home having been assaulted, late, or on one occassion via a hospital. Obviously the emergency incidents were priority and there was never a shortage of slow response jobs such as the ever increasing Facebook rows.
Response policing had its highs and lows but having been looking forward to doing this line of work for so long (thanks to Tony Stamp & co) when I started doing it I started summing it up by saying “Response work is the same as putting a plaster over a cut”. I grew bored of turning up to a job, patching things up and shooting off to the next job. The public deserved better and I wanted to do more for some people but just simply did not have the time. I missed the being able to pop into the local care home for a brew.
Response policing is a vital element of the job and this cannot be forgotten. I enjoy this line of work and have maximum respect to all who do it. i earlier spoke about feeling like a response dumping ground. I developed a phrase that I used when talking to people who had called us but their situation needed more than a lets put a plaster on it approach. That saying was “You can put a plaster on the wound but it takes time for the wound to heal”. Applying that to policing and an example would be me arriving as a response officer with little time will not be able to sort a long standing neighbour dispute hence needing a community Constable with the time to intervene. I can put the plaster on the problem tonight but the wound will still be there and will need time to heal. Enter the community team with more time to assist.
Response work is very stressful and I lost count of how many times I felt like saying shove it.
So why have I written this Blog? Well I have found myself in a position (having moved forces) where I needed to pick which area I wish to specialise in. I have discussed this with friends and family and heard arguements for and against both areas. Whilst both areas of policing have their importance and both make a difference to people in different ways I have been thinking about both roles.
I, as you know tutor student officers who have completed their class room training. I have no idea where these students will end up. Some may be my future supervisors, who knows maybe I will tutor a future Commissioner of the Met. Given my tutoring responsibility I have gone with the community policing option as I can invest more time into my students and the community.
British policing has been built on the core value of being community based. Sir Robert Peel who created the Met Police in 1829 was quoted as saying that “the police are the public and the public are the police”. This very statement has been instrumental in my decision process and to me teaching this core value into new students brings a massive sense of pride.
Both areas of policing have their pro’s and con’s and I enjoy both areas however this topic sadly cannot be properly covered in one Blog.
Thanks for reading.