I have a birthday this week. Not an especially significant one but, nonetheless, a prompt to pause and think for just a moment or two. About work. About life. About the things that really matter.
Almost 47 years of life. Almost 25 years of policing.
And there are some things I’ve been learning along the way.
It’s People Stupid
I won’t tire of repeating this one.
People matter more than anything else. Those we serve and those we serve alongside.
People matter more than performance charts. They matter more than meetings. They matter more than deadlines – more than yesterday’s headlines. This Job is all about people. And they simply have to matter more.
Every contact leaves a trace.
Courage is not the Absence of Fear
You come across some astonishingly brave people in this line of work: men and women who have risked everything for the sake of both friends and strangers.
Then there are those who have paid the greatest price of all.
And here’s the thing. None of them was unafraid. But they responded to something that lies deeper than fear – that precious and old fashioned thing called duty.
So I will never grow tired of celebrating the everyday heroism of the people who do this job. While I’m writing this – while you’re reading this – they’re out there, doing what they do. And doing it with rare brilliance and bravery.
Of course, this Job – and this life – is not just about physical courage. It’s also about those with brave hearts – a willingness to stand up (and speak up) for what is right, regardless of the personal consequences of doing so.
My Wife is Extraordinary
She just is. Our girls are too.
I would be less than half the man I am without them.
The point here is that family and friends matter.
None of us could do what we do without the love and encouragement of those closest to us. They are part of the story too.
Leadership is Service
Leadership is not about rank or grade. It’s not about titles or braid. It’s not about status or position or attainment.
Leadership is about substance and character.
And the first job of a leader is to serve, not to be served.
By far the most important people in policing are the PCs and DCs. They are the face of the Job. In so many ways they are the Job. They are the first to respond and the first on scene. They are the ones working beyond the cordon tape. They are the ones standing in harm’s way.
The first responsibility that the rest of us have is to serve them – to give them our best in order that they can give their best out on the streets.
First & Second Things
Several decades ago, the author C.S. Lewis wrote a short essay entitled ‘First & Second Things’. In it he examined the question of priorities.
His simple contention was that, in any situation, things have to be done in the right order for them to succeed. And first things – the most important things – have to come first:
“You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first…. From which would follow the question, what is the first thing?”
In life and in work, we need to get our priorities in the right order. We need to understand what comes first.
Sticking Plasters & Real Solutions
Which leads to the inevitable distinction between symptoms and causes.
So much of policing involves putting sticking plasters over things that are only ever symptoms. Like General Booth’s vision of pulling drowning souls from the water.
The sheer volume and complexity of all that faces policing – together with a general sense of impatience that seems to exist in society – means that we are drawn, inevitably, towards the apparent quick fixes.
But quick fixes aren’t real solutions.
We aren’t going to fix Domestic Violence by Friday next week. Or Knife Crime. Or Human Trafficking. Or Child Abuse. Or any of the other great causes of harm in society.
It’s not the Critic who Counts
Coppers love the old Theodore Roosevelt quote. They are the men and women in the arena.
And there is no shortage of policing critics out there.
Sometimes, we deserve everything we get – with only ourselves to blame. But not always.
On September 21st 1992, I made a promise – to serve ‘without favour or affection’.
And it’s not the critic who counts.
Stillness & Silence
The world is moving at headlong pace. Policing is too.
And it’s not good for any of us.
It was Gandhi who said, ‘there is more to life than increasing its speed’, but I don’t think anyone was listening.
The fact is that we all need to be still sometimes. To rest. To listen. To learn. To ensure we don’t burn out.
The faster we go, the less we think. And that does no one any good at all.
Hope is a Good Thing
Here’s a line from my favourite film – The Shawshank Redemption:
‘Remember Red, hope is a good thing – maybe the best of things – and no good thing ever dies.’
The world can seem a pretty troubling places at times. Most of the time actually.
And that’s a reality amplified by policing – by a repeated invitation into the darkness and the recurring challenge to give up on hope.
But that must never be.
In work and in life, hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things.
And no good thing ever dies.