It seems to me that there are plenty of police officers out there with their heads down at the moment.
I’m proud to count any number of them as my friends… I’m proud to serve alongside them all.
• There’s the retiring officer – who thought they’d never say it, but they’re glad they’re going;
• There’s the brilliant PC – who has put their papers in, saying simply that they’ve had enough;
• There’s the Police Staff member – who sees no prospect of getting on in the Job, now leaving for the private sector;
• And there are those who are staying – but who will, if you ask them, tell you that all is not well.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.
There are any number of reasons that might be given for their sense of unease:
• Police Reform
• Pay & Conditions
• Unprecedented levels of scrutiny and no shortage of external criticism
• Public Sector partners feeling the strain
• A policing past that is catching up with us – the recognition that some of our troubles are of our own making – and a policing present that is becoming ever more complex and challenging
• An evolving terrorist threat that puts police officers directly in the line of fire
Whether you agree with them or not, it all adds up to a pretty challenging picture.
Certainly the most challenging I’ve known in more than 22 years of doing this remarkable job – arguably more challenging than anything seen in the post-war era.
And there is a realisation that so much of what is happening is beyond the immediate influence or control of any one of us. Indeed, the only thing that is within our absolute control is the way in which we – both individually and collectively – choose to respond to it all.
And we could let our heads drop. On occasions, perhaps some of us might be forgiven for doing so.
We can remind ourselves that, in spite of everything, this is still the best job in the world; that it is still one of the very most important…
Because, whatever else is happening, the calls will keep coming.
To the crime scene, to the car crash, to the Domestic Violence victim, to the Missing Person, to the man having a schizophrenic episode, to the illegal rave, to the trafficker and the pimp, to the Sudden Death, to the ‘Suspects On’, to the child left home alone, to the family feud, to the stalker, to the pub fight and the street brawl, to the suspicious package, to the neighbour dispute, to the gang member, to the girl threatening suicide, to the aggravated trespass, to the lonely soul who just needs someone to talk to…
Regardless of what’s going on in the world around us, there are people out there right now who need a helping hand – and there are people out there right now who just need nicking.
We are still that agency of first and last resort…
What’s not to love about this extraordinary line of work?
• There is the brilliance & bravery, the courage & compassion of the officers I work alongside – the ‘everyday heroism’ of the people who police our streets;
• There were my days as a Hostage Negotiator, with a boss who would ring and ask simply, ‘are you ready to save a life?’. A little hokey perhaps, but it certainly reminded you of what’s important;
• There is the recognition that this, truly, is a job like no other;
• There is that precious sense of belonging – of being part of a unique and extraordinary (and occasionally dysfunctional) family;
• There is the fact that I have laughed longer and harder in the company of police officers than perhaps with anyone else;
• There is the gratitude and appreciation of those for whom we have answered the call;
• There is the priceless knowledge, as you head home at the end of the day, that you have made a difference – perhaps all the difference in the world;
• There is the realisation that the police service still has the support of the vast majority of decent people;
• There is the remembrance that it really isn’t the critic who counts…
Yes – it’s damn challenging at the moment. But, chin up…
Because this Job still matters more than I can possibly say.
When I grow up, I still want to be a police officer…