The Ultimate Sacrifice

It is an understatement to say that it has been a truly, truly awful couple of weeks for Policing.

3 outrageous assaults on our colleagues, and one murder.  It’s the kind of headlines you expect to see from other Countries, not from England, not here.

When we join the job, we do so to help you, to support your families in their times of need, to protect the most vulnerable and pursue the most dangerous.  We do so knowing that sometimes we may come home a little bumped and bruised.  We never joined to be killed.  It feels surreal even writing that, I don’t think any of us can really believe what has happened over the last few days.

PC Harper was one of us.  He was a man who joined the job and wanted to protect you. He literally gave the job every last thing he had, and we will never forget that.

Tonight, PC Harper’s wife, Lissie, has released a tribute to him. My god. If you haven’t already, you need to read it –

Next time you want to speak badly of the Police – whether it be because we took too long to get to a job, we’re buying a coffee in McDonald’s, we didn’t arrest somebody, whatever the reason, please just take a minute and think.

Think of what job we may have just been coming from, think of what we’ve just heard on the radio, take the time to wonder when we actually last got to sit down on a meal break.

No matter what day of the year it is, no matter what time of the day it is, we are always, always there for you.

We literally run towards the danger as you run away. We hold your loved ones when we’ve told them the worst news. We support you in your time of need. We spend time with your children so they’re not scared of us and our uniform. We’ll cancel our own plans so that we can finish our job.  We’ll miss birthdays, Christmas’s, anniversaries, weddings.

We’ll try to explain to our nearest and dearest that no, we don’t work Monday-Friday and yes, the next weekend we’re off and free really is in three months time. We’ll Facetime our families when they’re all together so that we aren’t totally missing out.

We miss so much, but we do it because we joined this job to protect you, to keep you safe, and to do our best.

And yes, sometimes our best isn’t good enough, but we are only human.

Nobody should go to work and never come home.  No colleague should have to perform that level of first aid on somebody wearing our own uniform. No family should be told that they’re loved one isn’t returning.

PC Harper gave the ultimate sacrifice on Thursday night.  He will forever remain one of us. He’s a true hero.


“We need a new scheme”

We, as Police, constantly seem to want a new project. A new scheme. A new way to do things.

One thing I will never understand is this incessant need to try and fix something that isn’t broken. If something works, if the public know what to expect, and the Police know how to do our job, leave it alone. It works for a reason.

We are really good at finding something that works, and rocking the boat so hard it actually breaks. New policies or working practices which change so frequently you can’t get your head around them before the next one is rolled out.

There’s many mixed reviews around the Direct Entry and Fast Track schemes. I currently have a Direct Entry Inspector and I’ve recently had a Fast Track Sergeant.

I would make only a few points:

1. It takes a certain type of person to be able & competent to do those schemes.

2. Fast Track doesn’t mean they’re better, they’re really not.

3. Experience is more important than rank. If you’ll listen & take advice from those who have done the job for years, you’ll likely be better off.

4. They do however, bring other skills to the table and different experiences.

5. I think I prefer Direct Entry to Fast Track as a scheme. Generally people with more life experience, previous careers, people skills & ability. Fast Track (in my opinion) attracts young, inexperienced people, not good leaders.

And on the subject of schemes…let’s all have a degree! No, let’s not.

I have a degree, do I use it every day in my job? No. Does it benefit me, yes of course. Should it be compulsory? No definitely not.

Being a Police Officer requires 3 main things:

1. The skill to listen

2. The ability to empathise

3. The desire to protect the most vulnerable & convict the most evil.

Three things that I would suggest you wouldn’t ever learn from studying for a degree. Some of the best Police Officers I know don’t have degrees, and it’s people like them that these ridiculous schemes will ignore. As with the Direct Entry & Fast Track schemes, taking promotion opportunities away from very, very competent and able PCs.

Rarely, very rarely, is somebody extremely practical as well as being extremely academic. Often we are one or the other.

Policing is a practical job. It’s a do-ing job. Yes of course there’s paperwork, but no, it’s not like writing a dissertation (although it may feel it sometimes!)

It’s the ability to comfort those after you’ve broken the worst news to them.

It’s the going to work and missing family events to protect the public.

It’s risking our own lives and safety to protect yours.

It’s sitting with you for hours in your mental health crisis, trying to comfort you.

It’s working late every day to finish a job, to get the right result, and cancelling yet another plan.

It’s juggling home and life and shifts and sleep and how the hell don’t I have a free weekend for 15 weeks?

It’s the hardest, but the most rewarding job there is.

The one thing it’s not, is something you learn from a textbook.

An epidemic?

At what point do we start properly acting on what is being brandished in the media as a knife crime epidemic?

An epidemic is “a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time

Ebola was an epidemic. The Ebola outbreak received mutual aid from across the world, the Army were sent with little to no notice to Sierra Leonne for an unknown amount of time in a hope to help. It took the Government virtually no time at all to hold a meeting to agree that immediate action needed to be taken. They saw people die, children die, thousands suffering, for months on end.

Knife crime is an epidemic. The media and some politicians have got as far as stating that it is such a thing, but they’re yet to actually deal with it. Why?

“There will be more Police in the City to tackle the rise in knife crime.” No, there will be the same amount of Police. Those boosted numbers are officers on overtime, on a cancelled rest day, on a day that should have been annual leave.

Some Police Forces are having extra funding to help. But it really is a sticking plaster. It’s extra funding to pay for the overtime, it’s not extra funding to replace the 20,000+ Police Officers that have been lost over the last few years.

And it’s not just London either. This is a national problem. In Birmingham, Manchester, the biggest cities and the smallest towns. People carry knives on a daily basis. Children carry knives. Children are killing each other. The number of people under the age of 16 I see in Custody on a weekly basis for possession of a knife/blade/machete/weapon is terrifying.

Surely, surely this is an epidemic. And surely it deserves the same action from the Government as other epidemics do that are thousands of miles away.

Before I transferred to my current Force I worked on response in a much more rural area. I was on a shift that paraded 1 Sergeant and 7 PCs (on a very, very good day) We covered an enormous area, with backup 20 minutes away on a blue light run.

This week just gone my old shift dealt with a murder. The response car that was sent to the murder was single crewed. The response car sent to the murder was the only response car in the entire patch. To a murder. There really are no words.

Anybody who tells me that there isn’t a correlation between a lack of Police and a rise in crime are living in cloud cuckoo land.

We deal with it every day. In every role. The pressures are immense. There aren’t enough of us to pretend to do the job we love well enough. We do our best, but that isn’t the same as doing well enough. We let people down every single day.

So when will this epidemic be dealt with as seriously as it is? When will we get support?

I welcome any Politician to come and work with me for a day and I dare them to tell us that we aren’t struggling.

“I live at work and visit my house sometimes”

As I sit here writing this post, I have just finished my 12th day of my 14 day stretch, having had one rest day 9 days ago.

Knackered doesn’t cover it.

Sometimes with this job, we sacrifice a lot. We miss our home, we don’t see our friends, we cancel our plans and we mainly function on caffeine.

I am currently into week two of a Crown Court trial. Having owned this incident since the day it happened back in September 2018, it seems slightly strange that within a matter of days it will all be over.

If I mention the victim’s name at work everyone on my team knows about it.

I know this case inside out, arguably better than I know my own life sometimes!

I have spoken to the victim and their mother every week for the last seven months.

I have gained the trust of a victim who was so terrified of being hurt again that they wouldn’t tell me the truth intially.

And I have spent the last two weeks supporting the victim and their mother through arguably the toughest two weeks yet.

Long hours, far too many early shifts (!) and a lot of coffee appears to be a good setup for now.

Hearing the defendants give their version of events. Being called a liar. Hearing them not tell the truth as we believe it to be. Listening to the barristers go over and over every little tiny detail about what happened. Watching the Jury’s reaction as they watch and listen to the evidence.

It’s emotionally exhausting. It’s sometimes impossible to listen to the detail being repeated, denied, twisted and distorted.

Seven months of supporting my victim.

Seven months of bloody hard work to get the best evidence.

Seven months of arguments with CPS.

Seven months of chasing medical evidence.

Seven months of blood, sweat and tears. I just hope for my victim we get the right result.

I really, really do.

Walk a mile in my shoes

People join “the job” for a number of reasons, from interviewing the bad guys, protecting the good guys, driving really fast and everything in between.

From the very first day of our Policing career, we lace up our shiny new boots and tackle the day ahead.  Be it during our 15 weeks of initial training when we are having law and policy rammed down our throats, or during the next 30 years of our career wherever that may take us, the reality is that our trusty pair of boots are really the only thing that understand exactly what we have been through. The stories they could tell…

Our families, our friends and the public all see and hear about investigations that the Police are carrying out, people that the Police need to speak to, and generally ludicrous sentences that are given out at Court.  The problem is, our families, our friends and the public all see what the press want them to see, in the way that the press want them to see it, and often conveniently leaving out key bits of information which, although factually correct, perhaps doesn’t make such a good headline.

I work a 9 day shift pattern. 3 earlies, 3 lates, 3 rest days. As far as shift patterns go, it really isn’t that bad. I don’t currently work night shifts which means I don’t feel and look like I’ve been hit by a nine tonne truck, and having three days off feels like a proper break at the end of our working week to re-charge our batteries and have a bit of a life!

During my six working days, I am often off late at least 50% of the time, sometimes by only an hour, sometimes by more than four.  The best way to avoid disappointment is to not make plans after earlies. Having to cancel on people is worse than not having the arrangement in the first place.

In theory I am duty for 50% of my working week, and the remaining 50% I get to progress the 24 other investigations I own currently.  In reality, I am duty for closer to 70% as there aren’t enough of us (shock) to deal with the volume of prisoners coming through, with the number of stabbings being called in, and the number of violent disorders occurring on a more than weekly basis.

So the reality is that the other 24 investigations that I own get ignored, pushed to one side and have to wait.  That’s 24 victims being failed, 24 victims with updates far later than deserved, and 24 victims left disappointed in the lack of service the Police have provided.

If you imagine a puppy running in circles chasing its tail, that’s a fairly good representation.  Although I expect I look less cute and more haggard than a playful pup. After three very needed rest days, the drive to work on the first early back generally consists of me making a mental to do list, dreading the amount of emails that have landed (especially if I’ve had mid-week rest days, as CPS have been at work…) and constructing some kind of game plan for the week ahead.

Sometimes, it’s really bloody knackering. It’s really hard. It can feel impossible and leave you questioning how on earth you’re meant to do this job.

But other times, I get a fantastic result, a decent sentence at Court, and it reminds me why I do what I do, why I love this job, and why it really is the job like no other.

We aren’t immune to everything

I’ve previously written about how things become routine in Policing. How we deal with the same people, the same types of crime, and have the same arguments on a nearly daily basis.

We become immune to what we see, to what we hear and to what we do. We have to. If we took every job home with us, if we took every abusive comment to heart, we would break within less than a day.

That said, sometimes things hit a nerve. We hear things that even as Cops we can’t be immune to. We see things that even as Cops we can’t help but take home with us. We are human after all.

A year ago, to the day, I attended my first ever fatal RTC. Car vs person. It would be a lie to say I don’t still think about it. No, it doesn’t affect me and I don’t lose sleep over it, but I still think about it when I drive down the road, or read about other similar incidents in the media across the Country. Killed at the age of 31.

Yesterday I took a statement from a significant witness of a serious offence. We talked for literally hours about what they saw, what they did and how they felt. “His eyes were dying”. Jesus. Killed at the age of 17.

Sometimes, there are no words for what we see and hear in this job. Sometimes, you hear something and it feels like you’ve been kicked straight in the stomach. Some people are just evil.

What can you say to somebody who has witnessed the worst things possible? Sometimes just taking a minute and saying nothing goes further than trying to make small talk I suppose.

It bothers me that often our witnesses are innocent members of the public, going about their day and they witness just pure evil. It’s hard enough for us in our job, and we see it all the time.

Those poor, poor people.

Killing Knives

Within not very long of being in the job, crime, life, death and everything in between become normal.

The “shock factor” isn’t there anymore. Things become routine, they become normal, they become repetitive. It’s not the “first” of any job. It’s the 543rd domestic, the 98th missing person and the 743rd report of a drunken buffoon.

That said, there’s some jobs that no matter how many you go to, no matter how many you investigate, no matter how many you get results on, still bother you.

Everybody is different. I expect no two Police Officers have exactly the same reasoning behind why something bothers them, but I’m fairly confident none of us can say nothing does.  We are human beneath the uniform. We have thoughts and feelings. We are not robots.

For me, it’s the knife crime.  Daily stabbings, daily murders, daily violence. Somehow society now believes that the norm is to carry a knife/blade/screwdriver or any other remotely sharp object in order to inflict a world of pain on an often innocent victim.

It isn’t a case of which day will there be a stabbing anymore, it’s a case of when in each & every shift.  In the last week alone we averaged a stabbing a day.  A person in hospital as a result of every, single one.  People in custody for some of them. People outstanding for the others.  Devastated families, victims of callous attacks.  People who have gone from minding their own business one minute, to being wired up to hospital machines the next.

In the current climate it would appear that you only need to look at somebody the wrong way to warrant getting stabbed.  It is scarily, and quickly, becoming normal.  It’s a crime that shouldn’t ever be normal, because it’s not. There’s nothing right about wielding machetes and knives in public. About inflicting the highest level of harm on innocent members of the public. About not caring about anybody else.

There’s no real deterrent anymore though.  There aren’t enough of us to deal with the crime when it happens, let alone prevent it happening in the first place. Ambulance are just as stretched, the sentences at Court are often laughable.

How is anybody expected to help stop this? The reality is, I don’t think we can, and that’s terrifying.