It’s easy to judge what you have no idea about.

Over the last few months, especially in the last couple of weeks actually, there has been a whole load of public moaning about parking police cars, ambulances and fire engines in inconvenient places.

However to me, it’s not just parking we get moaned at. Sometimes it does genuinely feel like some members of the public will take any opportunity they can to slate us. I hope they remember their comments on the day they need us most, and we block somebody else’s driveway to help them. I’m sure that would be just fine.

Whenever I return to my car which has, let’s be honest, been dumped, and there are people around, I apologise.

If we are responding to a Grade 1 in the middle of the night, we don’t purposefully put our sirens on, because we know at 3am you’re probably asleep.

If we are in the queue at Tesco and somebody offers we go first we say “no it’s okay” despite not having eaten all shift.

We try, we really do, to respect you, as the communities we protect.

It’s a shame it doesn’t go the other way.

We get moaned at when we park inconveniently. Well I’m sorry but if someone is about to jump out of their loft with a noose around their neck, I may just have other things on my mind than the perfect parallel park.

For me though, it’s more the digs at our appearance than our inability to park that wind me up.

I’ve been told I look scruffy. I’ve overheard people muttering that we “always look a mess”.

Sorry.

That time I walked past you and my boots were covered in mud, was because I had just found a car on fire in the middle of a boggy field.

That time I walked past you and my hair was all over the show was because I was dealing with a crash in the pissing down rain, and I’m freezing cold.

That time I walked past you literally covered in dust from head to toe, was because I had just been doing CPR on a 37 year old man on a building site. He died.

That time I walked past you and looked half asleep, was because I was four hours late off but had offered to go and help my colleagues at a GBH in town.

You can judge all you like, but you will never understand. When we come to work we do really try to do our best at whatever jobs we deal with that shift. There is nothing worse than finishing that shift, feeling like all you have done is let people down.

I bet if you ask any copper, one of the most used words on a daily basis is “sorry”.

999 is it even an emergency!?

I’m certain this isn’t a problem that just the Police face, but one that all emergency services face.

999 is an emergency number. 101 is for non-emergency matters.

From Google –

emergency

noun

1 1.
a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.

 

So why, on literally a daily basis, do we get calls to 999 which just aren’t justified.  With the ever growing expectation that the Police are there to solve everybody’s problems, at a time when we are on the bones of our arses with respect to resourcing (or the lack of) we just can’t meet demand.

Wasting our time at a 999 call which isn’t serious or dangerous (See definition above) is one of my pet hates.  Being at that job, means that I can’t be at the job I need to be at.  I can’t be at the genuine emergency.  I can’t be helping my colleagues who are getting assaulted.  I can’t be looking for the high-risk missing person with dementia.  I can’t be relieving my colleague who’s been on a scene guard all shift without food or time for a wee.

I will do my best at whatever job I end up at, and I will try my best not to let my frustrations show, but for heaven’s sake just take a minute and think before you call us, please.

Police, and Ambulance for that matter (I would like to say that people don’t call Ambulances unless it is a genuine emergency, however I know for a fact that sadly, that’s not true either), are emergency services.   We are not social workers.  We are not people to call because your 8 year old child has shouted at you.  We are not a taxi service. We are not counsellors for your mate who has had 1 (or 5) too many pints.

We are however, the people who risk our lives to protect yours.  Who hold your hand when you’re scared.  Who comfort you when we’ve told you the worst news imaginable. Who protect you by arresting those who have hurt who. Who try our best to help you in whatever way we can.  No matter what you’ve done to us before, or what you may do to us in the future, we are always there when you need us most.

A Copper’s Confidence

I learnt very quickly in this job, that there is an overwhelming assumption by members of the public, that as a Police Officer, you have the answer to everything, and if you don’t, it’s your fault.

As quickly as I learnt this, I realised that actually it is perfectly reasonable to apologise and go and find the answer, rather than fumbling through pretending you know what on earth you’re talking about.

When the abuse is hurled at me because I’m “not good enough” or the response I’ve given is “not satisfactory”, I guarantee that the person shouting at me hasn’t stopped to think – is it my first day? Have I dealt with this before? Have I just come back from annual leave and been given a job which I know nothing about? Is my brain all over the shop because of the job I dealt with before this one?

In this job, we are expected to be experts in everything. But that is a physical impossibility. The reality is that we are a jack of all trades, and a master of none. However somebody thinks I can know everything about everything, ranging from theft to murder, traffic offences to drugs, wounding to child neglect, I do not know.

All I ask from the public is patience. Work with us, we will get the answers we need (maybe not the answers we want), but give us time. Funnily enough we are often aiming for the same goal.

Confidence is a massive part of our job. I’m not. I doubt so many of my decisions, because what if somebody would do it differently? What if something goes wrong? Truth is, sometimes you just have to make a decision and cross your fingers. As long as you can justify what you’ve done and why, you’ll be okay. Sometimes we have the pleasure of navigating a complaint along the way, but it’s just another hurdle to jump.

I have been incredibly lucky in that throughout my career so far, I have had the support of one individual. No matter what department I’ve worked in, or what challenge I’ve faced, I knew I had that support of one person. I was introduced to them whilst I was at University and actually ended up interviewing them as part of my dissertation (Quite the role reversal!), but since then, they have proof read every application, believed in my ability when I didn’t really believe in myself, and now has an element of “I told you so” about them, as I’ve got to where I’ve always wanted to be! But it remains a fact that I have got here because of their support, and for that I will always be grateful.

With time comes experience, and with the experience comes confidence. Until it goes wrong. With me, it did, and for a while I felt like I was back at square one (not that I told my shift that!) It was a night shift, and I was crewed with my work bestie. (You’ll remember her from the KFC incident!). We got sent to a run of the mill domestic, where an angry man was drunk and aggressive towards his family. When we arrived, we thought he had already left, but sadly that wasn’t the case. This culminated in us having a fight in the hall way, getting locked inside the address, losing a radio, and not being able to get handcuffs on. I was scared. We had back up in the form of another car, and a van for transport, but I didn’t know how they were getting in. I felt so trapped. When our colleagues arrived, they managed to get in via the back door and I have never been so relieved to see them. It all ended alright, we were battered and bruised but okay. My colleague received a sprained wrist, and I got concussion, but we (literally) bounced back.

But that job ruined my confidence for a while. My head was filled with “what ifs” and I didn’t really want to be single crewed.

I think a talent of the job is to come across confident on the outside, even if you feel like you’re drowning on the inside. We’re always there to help people through whatever it is that’s happening in their lives, and we will always put their needs before ours. It’s what we signed up to do. Protect the good and lock up the bad.

My First Fatal

When I was still in my probationary period at work, I did an attachment with the Traffic Unit.

I dealt with drink drivers, people on their mobile phones, crashes, but never a fatal.  In fact, the biggest trauma I had to deal with on that attachment was less than a broken bone.  I was lucky.  These guys & girls deal with trauma on a nearly daily basis.

But it did mean that when I was by myself, my first fatal would be just that, my first.  Nobody to hold my hand so to speak, and guide me through.  Very much in at the deep end.

It was a Sunday.  I really do remember it like it was yesterday.  The fact that so many months on, there are still flowers at the scene I think speaks volumes.  It was his birthday recently.  I didn’t know that, not until I saw the “32” balloons hung at the scene.

On this Sunday, my best friend was working.  She is a Special Constable and we have never been crewed together.  We’ve worked the same shift over the years, but never been crewmates.  She text me and told me that she was coming in on the Sunday and I couldn’t wait! Loads to catch up on to make a late shift fly by.

I joked with her when she came in.  It was a Sunday, the chances are bugger all would happen and it would be a slow shift!  Well how wrong was I?!

Off we went on a tootle around the town, chatting rubbish and catching up.  I heard my colleague on the radio call up to say that Traffic were on their way to an accident, but were some distance away.   When I heard the road name I called up and said we would go, as we were literally turning into the road.

So what did we know when we were on our way?  We knew there was an accident.  That was it.  Not how many vehicles, what level of injury, na-da.

When we arrived, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure where the scene was.  There were people and vehicles bloody everywhere.  There was a bus with its hazard lights on, so we presumed it was involved, and parked up behind it.  I jumped out and got my high-vis, when somebody ran towards me and said a child had been knocked off their bike.

To this day I don’t know what they were chatting about, because there was no child or bike involved.  There was however, a man, lying face down in the middle of the road.  There was also a car, with the biggest bloody dent in the bonnet and virtually no windscreen.  The driver was stood there.

I called up and asked for Ambulance.  They were already on route, 30 minutes away. Brilliant.

I called up for an ETA for traffic. They were already on route, 20 minutes away. Brilliant.

It’s a bit of a blur, but it was at about this point where I looked at my crewmate, my best friend, and without saying much we realised that the casualty needed some serious help, now. He was barely breathing.

I felt so out of my depth. How quite I was “in charge” of this incident was beyond me. Ambulance had rung my mobile and were requesting updates as to the man’s condition and what we were doing.  Air Ambulance were also on their way.

Our colleagues had turned up and started putting cordons in place. Bollocks to any spinal injury, we rolled the man over, ripped what was left of his top open, and started CPR.

My bestie was ace.  She’d never done CPR before but you wouldn’t know. She took it all in her stride and just kept going. It’s bloody knackering but she just carried on.  She alternated with my colleagues, I was still on the phone to Ambulance and trying to find a de-fib. Nobody knew where the nearest was. Traffic still weren’t here.  Nor were Ambulance.

I knew this man was going to die.  In fact, I knew he was already dead, but we can’t pronounce death, so we carried on working on him.

Never in my life had I been so happy to see a traffic officer.  He flew up to us, literally launched me the de-fib, and ran back to his car to get the rest of his first aid kit.  They carry more than the Response cars, and quite frankly a bandage wasn’t going to cut it today.

By the time he came back, damn near the entire Traffic Team had descended, plus a couple of Ambulances, and I could see the Air Ambulance. Funny how everyone arrives at once!  We had the de-fib up and running.

Ambulance took over at this point, thankfully.  I began grabbing witness details. Names, addresses, what they saw, the usual.

A while later, talking to one of the witnesses, it hit me. All the machines that had been frantically beeping away, weren’t.  All of the Paramedics and Doctors that were passing orders and talking to each other, weren’t.  Despite the sheer number of people around, to me it was silent.  That’s when I realised, he really was dead.  How I didn’t just fall apart I couldn’t tell you.  I carried on speaking to those that needed speaking to, just “doing my job”.

Eventually, we got relieved by other officers.  They took over the scene whilst the Investigators did their thing, so that we could go back to the station.

We didn’t say much at all on the way back. I think I was concentrating on breathing & driving rather than crying to be honest.

I don’t really know what happened after that.  I know we had a shit-tonne of paperwork to do, a debrief was had with our supervisors, and some food was eaten. I don’t remember much more than that.

That was pretty much our shift done. We spent hours down at the scene. Time flew.  Just before I left, a colleague gave me a cuddle (dangerous!) and asked if I was okay. “Yeah I’m fine” I said. Not entirely true, but I didn’t know how I felt, not yet anyway.

I took my kit off, jumped in my car, and cried most of the way home.  It’s funny isn’t it, how there is such a divide, somehow, between work and home. As soon as I took my kit off, I was in home mode, and my emotions got the better of me. But I needed to cry.  We aren’t superhuman, we are just people. I think I was in shock.

I can never thank my crewmate, my best friend, enough for that day. I literally couldn’t have done it alone. Those that are with you through the best and worst times really are invaluable.  You can’t always be strong, but you can always be brave.

You can only do your best, but what if your best isn’t enough?

When we deal with Mental Health, are we affecting our own?

There is a totally shit perception that anyone in the Police, and I expect other emergency services, are robots in a uniform.

Job Description – 1 x person, preferable if happy to be assaulted and sworn at, no feelings, can function on lack of sleep.    Not quite.

In one week at work, the average Police Officer will see more than the average member of the public will in a lifetime.

I’ve lost track of the number of dead bodies I’ve seen already and I’ve only been in three years. Be it suicides, fatal car crashes, somebody’s Nan who’s passed away in a home, a heart attack in the high street, they all have an affect on me, some more than others.

What about a concern for welfare? We search homes, woodland, car parks, cars, you name it. Are we going to find a dead body? Someone who has taken an overdose? Are we going to find nothing? The adrenaline pumps every time you open a door when searching a house, because what if somebody is slumped behind it? Or hanging from the loft hatch? (Or a coat stand falls over when you open the door and you think it’s a body and crap yourself!)

What about the calls to a person on the train tracks, on a bridge over the motorway, the person who’s drunk and driven off feeling suicidal?

But it’s not all trauma. What about the domestics?  Something we deal with multiple times a day – verbal & violent.  Seeing both men and women injured at the hands of the person who is supposed to love them most.  Comforting the children who are scared because they have witnessed it.

Our mental health is tested all the time, but there is an assumption that we are okay, because it is part of the job.  Each one of the above, isolated, doesn’t seem like much to some. But put them all together.  Imagine starting your shift at a suicide, then going to a violent domestic, and ending it with somebody stood on a railway bridge.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t happen like this every day, and I have no interest in painting a picture that it’s worse than it is. But somedays, they’re just shit. Other times, it’s more a cumulative effect.  Let me explain….

For a number of months, every week, at least once a week, my shift got deployed to the same man.  This man had a noose, around his neck, and he was stood on the wrong side of the railings over a road bridge.  On some occasions, he wasn’t over the bridge, he was in his loft instead.

On one extremely bad day, I was deployed to his address with my colleague. He was in his loft with a noose around his neck, and was threatening to jump. Ambulance weren’t there yet. Nor was our back up.  At least if he was on the bloody bridge we were on the same level.  Here, his feet are above my head, how on earth is this ever going to end well. He wouldn’t let us into the loft, he kept leaning forward, tightening the noose.

I was talking to him, looking up through the hatch. Nothing.  My colleague tried, nothing. Our back up arrived, as did Ambulance. Then, mid conversation with him, he jumped. I’m still not sure whether my heart sunk or jumped into my mouth. Thankfully we managed to somehow push him up by his feet, as my colleague got up into the loft and cut him down.

Every time I got sent to him after that, I dreaded it more. What if I get sent alone? He’s massive, there’s no way I could get him down alone.  What if he’s over the bridge? Do I cut him down and risk him killing himself on impact, or let him hang until back up arrived? Do we drive the police car under the bridge so he has less distance to fall if he did jump? What about the van? Could we reach him from the roof of the van maybe? How would I get onto the roof of the bloody van to start with? Maybe we refuse to deploy unless there’s at least three of us?  But what if there aren’t, what if we don’t go, and he dies?

The cumulative effect of this on our own mental health, as Police Officers, was massive.  We knew the address off by heart, we didn’t need any more details. It became a horrible habit. We were knackered. We couldn’t keep doing this.  We were going to break.

Yes we are Police Officers, but no we aren’t superhuman. Under our uniform, we are just a person, just like all of you. With feelings, emotions, and exhaustion. We get affected by jobs we deal with, of course we do.  Yes, we get used to it, yes it gets easier, and yes we prioritise. But no, we can’t just keep going. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we shout. Sometimes we sleep. But tomorrow, we’re back doing it again, and tomorrow is a new day, with new challenges.

My Tutor was better than yours!

When you first start on shift, you get tutored.  For ten weeks, every single shift, you are crewed with you tutor.

Maths has never been my strong point, but working a 40 hour week, 10 times, is a lot of hours in one person’s company!

Well thank god I got on with mine.  That’s a lot of hours to be crewed with somebody who you don’t get on with, or don’t have anything in common with!

A tutor is your biggest support when you start on a shift.  You’re the newbie, you know nothing, you know nobody.  You don’t know where the toilet is, let alone how to write a statement.  There are more acronyms than letters in the alphabet, and you have no idea what they mean.

Your tutor is there when you make your first arrest, complete your first statement, book in your first prisoner, complete your first interview, receive your first complaint, get in your first fight, have your first (and second) disagreement with your boss, struggle through your first night shift, get your first job binned by Investigations, make your first (and second, third & countless more) mistake, find your first dead body, but most importantly, they are your first friend, and mine was the best.

I will forever be thankful for the amount of stupid questions of mine he answered, for the amount of support he gave me, and the amount of time he spent listening to me when I was struggling.  I owe my career so far to him and his patience.

Why do your shift become your family?

-Everyone in the job says their shift is their second family. Everyone not in the job doesn’t understand.

Comments like “you just work with them” or “they’re only colleagues” couldn’t be further from the truth. Because they aren’t. I honestly don’t think the bond you have with your shift is something anyone can relate to, unless they’ve been in the job.

We work a 40 hour week….well aside of the overtime, the shifts that finish four hours late, and the cancelled rest days. We start at 7am in the morning, which means we’ve left our home and loved ones before they’re awake. We finish our late shifts at 11pm, which means we miss dinner time at home. We start our night shifts at 10pm, which means we miss evenings cuddled up on the sofa watching trashy T.V.

I have more dinner dates at work than I do with my husband. I spend more evenings at work than on my sofa. I spend more hours a day with my shift family than my own family. So what? It’s just a job. Everyone works.

But as a shift family we do the following –

  1. We have breakfast together before responding to a domestic.
  2. We are there for each other when we get assaulted.
  3. We help each other cut down the young man who has hung himself.
  4. We make sure we are okay after our first fatal car crash.
  5. We support each other when someone has made a complaint about us.
  6. We ply each other with caffeine at 6am when we should have been off at 3am and we’re still writing up the GBH from the club.
  7. We laugh with each other, because otherwise we will cry.
  8. We make plans to have dinner together then end up in Custody, with a custody sandwich instead.
  9. We try and get each other off on time because there’s always a late job when you have plans that night.
  10. We sometimes say nothing, because no words can do justice to what we’ve just seen, but that silence is comforting.
  11. We bring Christmas dinner to work, because we can’t be at home.
  12. We celebrate New Years Eve filling up the car at the petrol station, watching everyone else’s fireworks.
  13. We support each other’s decisions, when yes the right thing to do really is remove the children from their parents.
  14. We say “morning” and “goodnight” at the start and end of every shift, regardless on the time.
  15. When we are off late and still have to drive the 45 minutes home, we arrive home to messages from our shift making sure we are home safe.
  16. We are forever in debt to each other in the forms of coffee and Haribo.
  17. We stand by each other when we did everything we could, and even that wasn’t enough.
  18. We buy birthday cakes, as we can’t be with our families to celebrate them.
  19. We support each other when we’ve had to do CPR and weren’t successful.
  20. No matter how royally shit a shift we have had, we make sure we all go home with a smile on our face, ready to come back in a few hours and do it all again.