Nine Things I’m Learning



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.







12 thoughts on “Nine Things I’m Learning

Add yours

  1. Hi. It’s 0530 in the morning and I just read your post- retweeted by uk cop humour. You’ve just listed something I’ve been banging on about ; especially ‘to lead is to serve’
    You also quote CS Lewis (try the four Loves) and the Shawshank Redemption happens to be in my top 3 films too.
    Firstly – well said that man. Secondly; you may be interested in my blog too : . It’s about life and everything ! See what you think. I’m a cop of 29 years service and policing features in many of my posts; simply because it’s what I know and it’s about life. Well done and keep them coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have read this piece a few times to absorb the essence of what you say and I fully agree that people need to be recognised for their humanity, be shown respect and be treated with dignity – this is so in all spheres of life. Family is the cornerstone of stability and sense of well-being – as is time for personal reflection and for following one’s interests beyond work: part of being a ‘whole’ person. As a teacher (now retired) I can empathise with many of the sentiments you have expressed in the past. Servant leadership is a difficult one – this is a concept I can remember trying for years to instil as each new batch of prefects were elected and it became an increasingly divergent one in these times of self-gratification with the emphasis on ‘me’. I hope your birthday will be a pleasant one; that you will be able to spend time with your family; and that you will experience more positive changes during the rest of your career.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Did read every word and yes all the words how very accurate and true of our world today and criminal issues affecting us all. No quick fix ever solves any thing. Hope keeps us going and not giving up, Love gives us comfort and feeling of belonging while Laughter relieves our stressful challenges in life. The most previous gift is life itself and thanks to good men and women like your self you understand that more than most. We should all value life always and live well with a positive attitude to wards others and ourselves. Unfortunately some people don’t respect life so that has negative effect on the universe and us all. That’s why we can’t do with out you the police to protect and service. Thanks for being you, Love, Life and Laughter from Magsx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So true ! And as I read somewhere once, “The main things a Police Officer needs are Common Sense,Compassion,and a Sense of Humour.
    Charlie, Leicester.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have taken the liberty of posting the URL and therefore the contents of this excellent post on my own WordPress blog site. I am ‘ex-job’ (Cumbria Constabulary) and I too have written a book, although mine is a novel rather than a memoir like your own and thus my name given here is a pseudonym. I wish you good fortune with ‘Blue’ and shall be ordering a copy shortly!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Enjoyable post.
    However the cynic in me wonders if those fast promoted young folks who now reach into the higher levels of the Police would really understand what you are saying. I often get the impression from what I read today that anything above Chief Inspector appears to have lost the reason for policing.
    Political Correctness and financial worries lead rather than good policing. Maybe I misunderstand it.
    The Bobbies I have met have always appeared decent round here.


  7. Fantastic article! 25 years ago I remember you explaining (Easter ’92 I think) your reasons for going into the Police Force… it seems the light hasn’t dimmed. I came across this after hearing you on Radio 5 Live this morning, with Adrian Chiles. Excellent interview and I wish you all the best. Who knows, our paths may cross again!

    Liked by 1 person

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