Silver Linings

The best laid plans and all that. 

Earlier today, I was given a date for Medical Retirement from the Metropolitan Police. My last day as a serving officer will be Wednesday 28th February 2018. 

That wasn’t how it was supposed to be. 

I joined the Met in September 1992 – a clueless 22 year old embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Over the years, I fell hopelessly in love with the Job. And with the men and women who do it. Like most of my generation, I fully intended to see out each one of my 30 years. Perhaps longer. I even had a half-baked idea that I might try to make it to Chief Constable one day.

Then life happened. 

In April 2013, at the age of 43, I broke. I was off work for more than 7 months – a once capable man reduced entirely to rubble. Almost five years later, I’m a whole lot better than I was, but I realise that I’ve done myself some permanent damage along the way. I’m no longer strong enough to deal with the exhaustion and the strain. I can no longer manage the inevitable stress. And I appear to be completely unable to cope with trauma of any kind – certainly not the kind of trauma encountered endlessly on the policing frontline. 

That’s the painful privilege of this job – to venture repeatedly into the hurting places; to be there when lives are saved; to be there when they hang in the balance; to be there in the scattered mess of blood and bandages; to be there when lives are lost; to be there when news is broken; to be there when the shattered faces of loved ones crumple in grief. To be there on the inside of the fluttering blue and white tape.

Not now though. I’m no longer able to stand in those places. And I’m in awe of those who are. Time and again, I find myself stirred by the breathtaking courage and compassion of my colleagues. They have always been – and they remain – the everyday heroes and heroines who police our streets. I will miss them more than I can say.

I will miss it all.

But there have been endless silver linings.

The extraordinary love of my wife; the unexpected hours and days spent with our three beautiful girls; the faithfulness of friends and the kindness of strangers; time and space to think and breathe and to learn how to rest in a world that is moving far too fast; the discovery of writing and of the healing to be found in telling stories; the opportunity to stand up and speak up for the things that have to matter more; the discovery of a thing called grace. 

Life might, of necessity be slower these days – but it is also somehow deeper, richer and kinder. 

Whatever happens now, I will always love this extraordinary job. I will always love the extraordinary people who do it. I will always celebrate their humanity and heroism. And I will always feel pride of the finest kind.

Because I was a boy in blue.



119 thoughts on “Silver Linings

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  1. Sir. I too had months off with stress and a similar amount of time off with a mini stroke. Had not gone back to fighting criminals since. So have been finding missing people. I had never been offered medical retirement so endured three years until today aged 55 to retire. Is it a rank thing or is your stress worse than mine? Once again not all is fair,open and transparent. I asked and was told I would not get it.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Sir, i wish you every best wish for your future. I sincerely hope that you find peace. The trauma can never be undone but it can be placed where it belongs; in the past. You are fortunately surrounded by the warmth of a loving family and good friends . Enjoy them and enjoy your freedom.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Thank you for all you have done John. You have achieved more than most in raising awareness of the many issues you have so eloquently written about. I wish you every happiness in your retirement. (You never actually ‘leave’ the job though, I’ve been retired 13 years and I still ‘bleed blue’………..but I guess you know that!) Thank you also for describing, with such clarity, just what it means to be a Police Officer, most people and certainly much of the MSM have absolutely no idea. Take care of yourself and those you love, they are ,as I’m sure you know, everything.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. You continue to serve the public through your writing and Ted talk. Few of us end up where we planned – I had to give up a teaching career that I loved, only to find my life a constant challenge with ME. And yet life still has purpose – that’s the wonder of it all. Take care.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Sir,

    I’ll always remember you as being one of the best commanders I ever had. Your compassion for the troops, belief in what we do and kindness to others is an example to follow. I hope you still manage to write about what we do in your retirement and I hope there are still many books to come. It seems cruel that you didn’t get to see out your 30, but nobody could ask you to give anymore. Congratulations on a hard-earned retirement, and I’m glad you will now get the time to focus on other important things.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. John, I have appreciated the wisdom and inspiration of your writings, I’m confident however that you’ll not starve us of them in the future and in your retirement I wish you and those close to you every blessing. Thank you for your service which has come for you at the cost of your health. I’ve been retired a little over 20 years – it’s fun, a great adventure! Policing and the love of it and those who undertake it remains unabated, I accept that now as an incurable disease and strangely were I to be offered a cure, I’d have to reject it. Again embrace this next chapter in your life with hopeful expectation. With all good wishes!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Sir never met you and unlikely to but I can relate to your words and that made your book a difficult but worthwhile read every contact does leave a trace enjoy the rest of your life

    Liked by 4 people

  8. May I wish you a happy and healthy retirement sir. You’ve done your bit now, relax. Silly for me to say that because at nearly 71, I still miss it as does a young colleague of mine medically retired at a young age because of stress in the job and never being able to work again.

    Once again, enjoy life and your family.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Sir, I know you were really appreciated and respected in Camden.
    Thank you so much for your honesty and integrity and for showing that there are many types of illness and a mental health one is not something to be embarrassed by.
    Oh and thank you for suddenly standing behind me one day in the CSU and asking me a load of quick fire questions 😂 I’m sure I bowed to you before answering.
    A commander keeping us all on our toes!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Your writing has a way of capturing how so many of us are feeling. I too broke last year due to the stresses of the job. I was off for 2 months and hope that I am not permanently damaged but I just don’t know. Your bit about not being able to deal with any kind of trauma resonated with me. I now have a nice role with very little stress and hope to stay there for a while. 23 years in but at least 11 to do.

    I wish you all the best post-retirement. X

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Thank you for your service. You’ve done your turn. You’ve done enough. There’s no shame in leaving when your turn is done. Twenty years of policing is more than enough. Enjoy your retirement and don’t look back. You’ve earned it.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. John,
    It is rare to find a voice that has experienced so much and yet delivers insights into policing with such humility.

    Your craft as a writer offers the ordinary person, myself included a window into a world that few of us truly understand. I suspect that though your pollice service may be at a premature end, your commitment to the men and women of the police service will endure.

    As you have noted previously, too many in the media are quick to denegrate and find fault in circumstances where the thin blue line is only held by exxtrordinary resolve. I hope that your service as an author and defender of that same ‘thin blue line’ continues.

    New horizons present new futures. Yours now awaits as we await new instalments.

    With kindest regards,

    John Hesketh

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Thank you Sir, for your honesty and eloquence in painting the picture of members of the thin blue line. I enjoyed your book and always look foreard to your postings. ENjoy your retirement. You have undoubtedly earned it.

    From a retired Gwent Sergeant.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Hi John, I suspect you will feel like many of us retired cops and we never un-say the oath we made on day one when we joined the best job in the world. After a bit of well earned ‘decompression time’ I hope you will continue to deploy your unique gift of summing up with formidable eloquence what many of the wider police family feel about policing and the contribution it makes to society. Some of us are lucky enough to help our awesome serving brothers and sisters and you definitely can continue to make a difference by providing that measured, compassionate and perceptive voice. On to the new challenge JC

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Having read your blogs I can honestly say you capture the highs and the lows of frontline policing. I suffered two episodes of depression and just managed to limp over the 30 yr finish line. I’m sorry you didn’t get to do that. I’m sure you’ll continue to be a great ambassador for policing. All the best.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I joined this crazy job the same month as you, John, and have always found your words genuinely inspirational. It is sadly all too rare these days to see a senior officer who GENUINELY still has the backs of junior officers, and continues to be in awe of those officers’ daily achievements. As a sergeant I like to think I am cut from similar cloth, as the welfare of those I supervise is my absolute priority. A pity there aren’t more like you. Enjoy a long, healthy and happy retirement. The police service will be a poorer place without you.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Sir,

    I am an officer who is very young in service, this summer I reach the end of my probation and I hope that I will make the grade. It’s incredibly heartwarming to see such comments made, particularly by somebody of senior rank! It sounds like you have had quite some career and you have the respect of many officers I have spoken to. So many people fail to understand the mix of complex work, hair raising close calls with a blend of mind numbing boredom that the job can bring, I am personally only started to understand it myself. I wish you the very best of luck with your future endeavours, it’s time to look after your own sanity now but any one of us could end up in the same position at any time. I pray I will last my 35 years but either way I feel incredibly proud to do what I do, I am sure you feel the same about your career.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Good luck sir. Your words, thoughts, insights and opinions are truly inspirational. Take care and please keep us updated on your journey. But just remember you will always remain part of the policing family

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Not since Richard Wells in the 80’s and 90’s has there been a commentator of such compassion and humility able with competence to publicly raise issues in a personable not institutional style. In your book, your blog and comments over the years you have showed communities the human aspects of poling challenges in a way that they can understand. For your penmanship and policing service, I thank you and wish you well in your life after policing. It will be different but it will be good.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. As a medically retired Police Officer (16yrs Service), can I just say that there is another life out there once you leave.
    It is difficult adjusting at first, it took me three years to handle depression caused by the loss of my career.
    I fortunately had a supportive wife and children, along with good friends.
    I wish you all the very best and hope in time you’ll settle into your new life away from the job.
    Paul (retired Northumbria)

    Liked by 3 people

  21. One of the greatest blokes I have ever worked with in 18 years. This makes me awfully sad…..To love someone and have a broken heart is one thing but to have a job break you is another. I admired him as a young PC and I massive admire him now for being brave enough to say….I am done. Good luck Sir x
    (I used to line quiz nights in FF cad room)

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Guv, very sorry to hear you are going. A true loss to the job. You are without a doubt one of the best guvnors I ever worked for and a true leader who genuinely cares for your troops. Sadly these traits are rarer and rarer these days. I wish you all the very best for the future. Enjoy your retirement. You absolutely deserve it. I hope you’re having a leaving drink as I know it would be very well attended. Kind Regards, Tim C

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Sir, I have never met you but you have influenced me from afar. I too am a ‘boy in blue’. Your tweets and blogs ring oh so true. Your book… true just that true. I am sorry to hear you have not got to 2022. I am still clinging on, to get to that 30 year goal. Take care, keep up the blogs and writing. Most of all spend as much time as you can with your Wife and family. You have well and truly done your duty, Sir.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. This is one of those situations that are a ‘to be continued……’

    As this door closes the door to the next chapter will open when the time is right. And the next stage could be even more powerful and meaningful than what you have already done. In the interim perhaps an opportunity to spend more time with your fabulous wife and children?

    I always thought you were a fantastic B/Cmdr when you were at Camden. I could see your strength in those days when you were in that role. Your strength became even more amplified when you started to speak openly about the pressures of the job. It is time, no, it is overdue, for the community to realise and appreciate the human behind the uniform.

    I do hope we can keep in touch post Met? In the interim there is a vacancy now……. Who am I going to wave to across the aisle of Westminster Abbey at Christmastime??!!! Applications invited!!!!

    Very best wishes


    Liked by 3 people

  25. Good luck with whatever you do next, you deserve it. I hope i’m never in the same situation but i feel myself heading slowly in that direction. I do love your blog, please keep writing.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. I totally get where your coming from. I did nearly 21 years and in the end I couldn’t do it after a traumatic incident that made me reflect in a big way!

    I made the decision in 2016 to leave the Police and give up some of my pension! The experience has been life changing and my quality of life has gone through the roof!

    Good luck for the future and like me I’m sure you are proud of what you have achieved!

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Sir, I had the privilege of working with you at FF many years ago. You are a true Gentleman and I have enjoyed reading your blog every now and then. Good luck for the future

    Liked by 3 people

  28. John, Most of us join the job to make a difference – especially vicar’s kids – and I believe you have certainly made a difference. You have made a difference to all the officers and staff you have led, those who are proud to call you a colleague and members of the public who have experienced your professionalism and compassion. You have made a difference to me – thank you. I also believe the difference you have made goes well beyond policing and will continue to do so. Thank you for having the courage to share your story. Continue to shine brightly. Joanna

    Liked by 3 people

  29. I always regarded you as one of the most courageous people I’ve met. Reading your posts, book and comments above have confirmed that your still are. Keep in shining indeed. Big love brother and all the best for the next chapter.

    Liked by 3 people

  30. It takes time to get used to new circumstances … you have a wealth of experiences, a great following, and a natural talent that can be put to good use. Be kind to yourself; allow yourself the freedom to ‘be’; give yourself permission to do nothing on some days and to explore different avenues on others. It really does take time to find a new niche that will go some way towards filling your sense of purpose. Above all, keep writing!

    Liked by 3 people

  31. Sorry to hear you’re leaving John but I’m sure its for the best. Thanks for all you have done in bringing your story to the masses. I loved your book and have just watched your Ted Talk again. It resonates so much with my own circumstances. I’m hoping to cling on until 2023 but seems a long time. Will need to find balance in the intervening years and learn where the priorities lay.Take care of yourself and family!

    Liked by 3 people

  32. I confess that I was a troubled youth, and unfortunately had many run-ins with the boys in blue for shoplifting, gang activity, minor drug possessions and such.

    However when I was twenty and survived my first suicide attempt, I woke up several hours later to find a lady police officer sitting vigil by my bed. The psychiatrist hadn’t been, the crisis team couldn’t be bothered to come til a week later and lord only knows where my parents were, but there she was.

    The police were there for me too when things went horribly wrong at home and I got into a shocking fight with my dad. The police calmly disarmed me, talked me around and then took me to the hospital to be assessed- and one officer in particular stayed with me for eight hours while I waited on the doctor and social workers. We talked about anything and everything, from his wedding to his dogs and whatever filled the silence in between. Then he gently prised my story out of me, and to my utter surprise when I had finished and my words still hung heavy on the air he said ‘I’m sorry for everything that’s happened to you’.

    I’ve been visiting psychologists since I was twelve, been surrounded by nurses and family members and a large church community, friends etc, but he’s the first person who ever said that to me. Bless you for your service, people don’t give you nearly enough credit, you’re life savers and heroes ❤ Please now do everything you need to to take care of your own mental health!

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Your writing is beautiful – and your strength and compassion shine through. Thank you for sharing, and I’ll follow your blog with interest now. I hope you really do enjoy your retirement, and the time you’ll now have to focus on new passions in life, unplanned and early as it might be.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. Although my family is from England I live in Canada. My brother too was a policeman, in the Ontario Provincial Police. Through him I have experienced some of what you must have been through. On my many trips to London I always felt safe and secure knowing you and your comrades were there – both men and women. I always found the police service to be polite, helpful and professional, never overbearing or authoritative. So thank you sir for all of your years of service and may you have a long and joyful retirement with what sounds like a wonderful family.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. I hope that is for the best. I think I remember reading one of your old posts ( ), and I was shocked as i read it.

    There is nothing that I can say about that then and neither do I have the words to say about it now. I know that for as long as you have stood, it was certainly inspiring and courageous. I hope you have a simple and peaceful life ahead

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Just happened to read and I can’t move past this page without thanking you for
    Your selfless service to the society for so many years! A big thank you all the way from India! Wish you more success and happiness!

    Liked by 2 people

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