Every Contact Leaves A Trace

Earlier this week the Daily Mail ran an article which claimed that more than 100 police officers take a whole year off work due to mental health issues. It stated that 1500 officers were absent every day for the same reasons.

I refuse to provide a link because I despise the paper and everything it writes but, in fairness, apart from some unnecessary CAPITALISATION, the article itself did not pass judgement. It allowed commentary from the Federation but resisted the temptation to use evocative language like “excuses” and “sickies” as it has done in the past.  Read More…

We Need To Talk About Guns

A few months ago the media in Scotland was full of glaring headlines making an issue about armed police officers being seen, carrying sidearms, in places such as shops or walking from one place to another. Usually focussing on the officers having the audacity to go and buy something to eat or similar.

The outrage seemed to be limited to a few politicians and newspapers as the vast majority of people actually spoken to took a far more pragmatic view.  Read More…

Never Say Never 

Here are some words I really didn’t think I would ever say “I am going to attempt to get a degree.”

Yes – I know. Read More…

The Man in the Hole – a personal blog on Depression

Depression is a hideous illness. If I had a virus or a fever I could take medication, allow it to do its thing, and expect to get better in a few days time.

I would see the symptoms. I might be hot, cold, shivering – my body would be showing me it was not right. To the rest of the world it would also be pretty obvious that I was poorly. No doubt this would lead to sympathy from those closest to me – even platitudes from acquaintances but either way – someone would feel the need to express their concern for my well-being and hope I “get well soon.” Read More…

Where There’s Light – There’s Hope

Over the last couple of years I have noticed a conversation occurring at work which, once upon a decade ago, would have been practically unheard of. 

The “if I could leave – I would” discussion has now become relatively commonplace and is particularly noticeable amongst colleagues in mid ranking roles or with over ten years service. 

It has even spread to Twitter and I found myself having such a conversation with a colleague just the other night. He described feeling out of place, like he couldn’t just get on with his job anymore. He described a huge amount of emotional turmoil but then said he felt like it was just him. 

It isn’t. He is far from alone.

I admitted that, if I could, I would probably consider taking the exit door as well. This, if you think about it, is actually a startling admission for a fifth generation police officer with over twenty years service who has wanted to do nothing else since he was 3 years old and who lives and breathes the job. 

So – why are so many people even thinking this? I can only really speak for myself but I think I probably echo others when I say that many serving officers are seeing a lot of things they do not like and do not understand. 

Those who are working with fewer colleagues and increasing demand – often straying into areas of life for which they have no training and questionable remit as they plug gaps in other agencies’ provision are scratching their heads as they try to figure out how more IT experts or a degree are going to actually help one iota. 

Why the sudden concentration on “professionalism” with the underlying narrative that we are inferior when police officers enjoy a relatively high level of public confidence and deal with some pretty terrible things rather well.

Why are we being told that we need more computer experts when there aren’t enough officers in uniform to attend the list of calls waiting on the control room screen?

Why are we being told that the future of policing should involve a “healthy churn” of staff? That what is wanted is for people to enter and exit regularly and a flattened rank structure whilst the force nationally is being criticised by the HMIC for lack of experience and supervision. 

Imagine how it feels for someone who took up the role – due to a calling – to give a working lifetime of service to be told that senior officers (mostly toward the end of that working lifetime) are publicly saying they no longer see policing as a “job for life.”

For many of us “old-timers” it conjures up images of the future which involve an awful lot of very bright but very inexperienced staff being held together by a very small cohort of seasoned and ragged dinosaurs who simply refuse to leave so as to make sure that the whole thing doesn’t fall apart. Imagine characters like Colour Sergeant Bourne in the film “Zulu”. A situation where these more senior in service officers spend most of their time tutoring or mentoring new people – who then leave. 

The new qualifications system has many officers asking “why?” We’ve seen many attempts at this kind of thing before and wonder what is different this time. More importantly – one of the “selling points” has been that it will provide transferable skills and something officers can take with them on a hunt for new employment. 

Well – be careful what you wish for. You may find that you are actually paying to provide a lot of grateful officers with a one-way ticket through the escape hatch. Perhaps that is the plan. I’m not entirely sure. 

And yet – for all of these questions and uncertainties and feelings of negativity – many, including myself, are still here. 

It cannot be purely because of financial considerations, though those will obviously be a factor. It cannot also be purely down to the fact that many feel unqualified to do anything else. 

So – why are we still here?

Again, I can only speak for myself but here are my reasons.

As I said before, I wanted to be a policeman from the age of 3 and it’s been a long hard battle to fulfil that ambition. I won’t bore you with my history but there have been times in this job where I have been treated appallingly (I’m talking YEARS ago and in another force) but I still had the desire to overcome that and do what my heart told me I was born to do.

That wasn’t easy. It came at immense personal cost – mostly to my wellbeing – but I will be damned if I am going to give up so easily. 

There are many things I do not like about the direction policing is heading – but for as long as I have strength and a voice in my head and the ability to write – I will continue to point and question and argue (as constructively as I can) for what I believe to be fair and right for policing. 

I’m not always right – far from it – but I am experienced and I think that counts.

I still love the job. I love what we do. I love what I do. I love my role. Very few things get me as animated or excited as when we actually have a “job on” and I can exercise my experience, knowledge and training to do real police work. It still gives me a buzz nearly 23 years down the line. Until that light goes out – and I don’t think it ever will – I have something to offer. 

More importantly – the reasons I joined the job have not changed and still drive me to work every day. It’s a sad old interview cliche to say I joined to help people but I did. And I do. And I like that I do. And I am sure they do too. And that matters. 

At my rank and role I help in different ways but I continue to fight for the welfare of people with mental health issues, I command firearms and other critical incidents and take all of these things very seriously and with passion.

Furthermore, I am now directly responsible for some 60 staff – all of whom need the support of someone who gives a damn and who recognises how hard this job can be sometimes.

So why am I still here? 

Because I care. I care too much. I have a role and position which took years and hard work to achieve. I am lucky and honoured to hold it. It allows me to use whatever skills and talents I have to bring positives to a negative world. It is a position of huge responsibility and not one I would give up lightly. It has to be earned – I believe I am earning it. 

Whilst I dislike much of what is being done to policing it is because I care. I love policing. The best way I can have any influence is from the inside. I won’t win many battles but I can speak up. 

I still want to help. I still want to protect people. I care about society and I care about my country. 

My job is to protect and help others – I do not believe there is a more worthy role in life than that. Not for me anyway. 

Don’t get me wrong – not a day goes by without me expressing some dissatisfaction about something work related. But there is a huge difference between dissatisfaction and disaffection. The latter is a place none of us want to be. 

So – if like me you are finding yourself questioning whether your future is in the job – I would urge you to soul search and get down to the very core of your being and the reasons why you joined in the first place.

If that light still burns – there is still hope.

Record – Rewind – Replay 

This week has seen the first police related shooting in a while. The news is already filled with accusations which neither the IPCC nor the police can yet comment on. 

The only way to refute such allegations is with clear hard evidence. Little is better than recorded moving images but it seems as though these will not be available in this case. 

In this guest blog, serving officer @PFM1972 shares his thoughts on whether body worn video is the only option. 

11 years ago I was an AFO and wore a head mounted body worn video camera which linked by a wire to a hard drive, carried inside my body armour. It was a great piece of kit for the time and recorded everything very well. 

Since then Body Worn Video has become the next big thing in Policing to show what exactly happens during “contentious”, or not so contentious, events involving Policing. I am a fan of it and want all officers in uniform, or not, to wear it and use it as much as possible. It will show the fantastic and difficult work we all do at very challenging times. 

This leads me to the recent events in West Yorkshire. I’m an ex firearms officer, having served in London and Lancashire. I, therefore, have experience and understanding of the kind of operation these officers were engaged in. 

The question has arisen about BWV and the fact no officers were wearing any during this shooting. This is perfectly acceptable given the covert role the officers were performing. But in operations such as this, why does the camera have to be “body worn”….why aren’t/weren’t the vehicles equipped with cameras? 

Technology has progressed so far that the cars could be fitted with very small cameras facing forward, or even a fisheye lens. This could, would and should support the version of events given at a post incident de-brief. 

To not have them these days, and I know one Twitter commentator who will say “I told you so…” is tantamount to some eyes as a cover up. I don’t go anywhere near that far, however I do think we shouldn’t be afraid of the cameras, what they record and show and get them installed and in use for both covert and overt operations, such as the incident in West Yorkshire. 

I have footage of a Taser deployment, which I recorded using my device several years ago now. I also have an email from the then head (a Chief Supt) of our professional standards department, who watched the footage and described it as a text book deployment and that the footage was excellent in discounting immediately any misconduct. 

The on duty Force Incident Commander at the time and the firearms tactical adviser on the day both watched the footage and were amazed at the clarity and evidential value of the camera. That video has subsequently been used in training across the U.K. and mentioned in the original Body Worn Video Guidance issued by the then NPIA. 

So my final plea is this….let’s get our cars, our officers and any other staff who want it issued with BWV or covert cameras so we don’t have to listen to anyone else accuse us of a cover up by not wearing or having them available/in use on firearms or other operations. 

Christmas in Uniform

My first Christmas in uniform was in 1994. I honestly thought it would be like that last day of primary school term when you used to be able to take toys and games in and do no lessons. It wasn’t.
I worked a late shift and I don’t think I stopped from the second I walked through the door until way past when I should have finished. 

It was an endless stream of calls. Mostly family or domestic disputes when people who didn’t often spend too long together were confined in four small walls with too much alcohol. Tongues would wag, secrets would come out, truths told and long held resentments aired. Violence would follow and my enduring memory is of rolling around in the gutter trying to pull a very angry man off his equally angry aunt. 

I was horrified. 

The early shift had had a constant stream of burglaries to attend and I remember wondering where the season of goodwill to all men had gone. 

The following year was no better. This was back in the days before working time regulations and we used to work a double-back shift which meant working a full night shift and then coming back in at 2pm the same afternoon to work a late. 

Night Christmas Eve – Late Christmas Day. 

That night I arrested someone for throwing a bin through the window of Fosters menswear. I had followed him from a distance for a while sensing he might be up to something. 

He was still in custody when I came back in that afternoon and with the alcohol having worn off him it was me who interviewed him. There was no reason for this act of stupidity other than alcohol. 

Make no mistake – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are busy for the police and other emergency services. Busy busy.

I’ve dealt with all sorts ranging from that criminal damage right up to and including murders. 

And as for New Years Eve – well – that remains the busiest day of the year. It never fails to kick off in some way but usually not before midnight. After midnight anything goes. 

One year it started a couple of minutes after the clock struck 12 with a burglary in progress where a few were arrested. Within minutes there was a serious fight at a local club which ended up with a GBH and a scene. The calls kept coming in. Then there was the rape allegation and then the fatal road collision. All before 5 am. 

By the time the rave was reported I looked at my beleaguered team – and the late shift who were still on duty – did a head count of who wasn’t committed or contaminated and said “let the rave run.”

There was nothing we could do about it. That was going to be early tours mission. 

Christmas is supposed to be a happy time but any officer will tell you we see a spike in incidents of suicide or attempts. 

One year we had so many in one week over Christmas that I, as the Inspector, decided my team had seen enough and I went to deal with the next ones that came in. 

I am sure that any officer you chose to speak to could tell you their own stories of just how unlike Christmas Christmas can be when you work for the police. 

It is genuinely something that most people will never see and will possibly never comprehend. 

And as I say, it’s not just the police. The ambulance service and NHS get a caning as well. The fire service too. Others will be defending our way of life on bases and in places many miles from home. All deserve our thanks and support. 

It really does make you see Christmas very differently and it can stick with you forever. I can’t not think of many of the incidents I have had to deal with at this time of year. 

So – my  Christmas message is to ask you to think about ALL those who are working in uniform over the Festive Period. It’s going to be tough because it always is. 

These folk will be providing vital public services, saving lives and doing good and protecting us whilst we are likely to be enjoying ourselves. Many kids won’t see much of mum or dad on Christmas Day. Sure, they get used to it but it’s not the point is it. 

It isn’t my turn this year. I worked all over Christmas last year and it just so happens that my rest days fall on the right days this time. 

So – to whoever you are and whatever shift you are working over Christmas I would like to simply say “thank you.”

I hope it passes as peacefully and without incident as it possibly can and that you can enjoy time with your nearest and dearest soon afterwards. 

And finally – to you all – thank you for reading my blogs and tweets this year. Thank you for your company and friendship and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. 


Wrong People – Wrong Time 

The ever wonderful Mental Health Cop wrote a thought provoking blog yesterday on the subject of welfare checks (safe and well checks.)

To the uninitiated this is the broad title given to calls to the police asking them to… check the welfare of an individual. Sometimes these calls come from the public in response to someone they are unable to contact but a lot – an awful lot – are generated by other agencies. Read More…

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