On my second ever day in the police, I was called to a ‘sudden death.’ As the probationer on the team I was taken by my Sergeant to the scene to make sure there were no suspicious circumstances. Once in the house I was told I would have to search the body, to make sure there were no knives sticking out of their back or anything else that might have prompted my inexperienced 23 year old mind to suspect foul play. Nothing in my life to date had prepared me for this experience, but I was determined to look professional, so I pulled on my plastic gloves and bravely knelt down alongside the deceased. It was at this point that a horse walked out of the kitchen into the lounge where we were all gathered. Nobody but me batted an eyelid, this was apparently quite normal in the area. At this point I realised that the life of a police officer is anything but normal.
I am often asked by people I meet what my job is like. If I am honest I absolutely love it, and would never consider doing anything else. I frequently have days that if they were WH Smith gift experiences people would pay to do them. There is nothing like the thrill of locking up a good criminal, deploying a firearms team to take armed criminals off the streets, or a surveillance team telling you that they have just secured a crucial bit of evidence.
There are of course bad days too. I have had to deliver numerous death messages. There is nothing that can prepare you for having to tell somebody their loved one is dead. I have had reactions ranging from people physically hitting me, to calmly offering to make me a cup of tea and offering me a comfy seat. They are all truly awful experiences and I remember each one.
I have been really lucky to have spent almost all of my sixteen years to date on the frontline, in uniform and CID. I love the complexity of CID work, and have worked at all ranks as a Detective. I have blogged before about murders, but I have been involved in some fantastic jobs targetting career criminals and been able to deploy some great gadgets against them. Most of the stuff you see on telly has some semblance of truth in it, although I do tend to sit through cop shows saying “thats not how it happens”, driving my Wife mad.
I get frustrated by paperwork and bureaucracy. I don’t think it is quite as bad as people make out, and to be honest if I cant see the point of filling out a form, I generally tell my officers not to, and wait to see if anybody notices. You would be amazed how many times they don’t.
I can’t think of another job where you could see so much strange human behaviour, or where you see so many funny and tragic incidents. I once got called to a man who told us he had taken an overdose. On closer inspection, he had swallowed a whole bottle of Tixylix. Needless to say, he survived, although I understand he didn’t have a cough for months afterwards.
I still struggle with people who are aggressive towards officers just because of the uniform. I have been on the receiving end occasionally, and have been attacked with fists, feet and knives. Luckily I am reasonably handy, having spent most of my formative (and later) years studying Karate, but the people attacking me don’t know that, and I often wonder as I am picking them up and dusting them down what they would have done if I couldn’t defend myself. I have avoided any serious injuries, but have seen some colleagues get badly assaulted.
I am shortly to be promoted to Superintendent, and although I will still take every opportunity to get out of my office (I have the attention span of a goldfish) I am moving away from the frontline. I may suffer the odd paper cut, and paper clips can be nasty if you get one under your nail, but I assume my days may contain a few less adrenalin bursts.
Although I can’t wait to move to my new role (watch out Wolverhampton) I will really miss frontline policing and day to day investigation. The vast majority of police officers are like me. They joined to keep people safe and lock up bad people, they are on the your side, and want to help. We don’t always get it right, and sometimes get it quite badly wrong, but the majority of the time, I think we do a good job. Don’t take too much notice of the occasional report about officers spending all day doing paperwork, and withdrawing into offices. They are out there day and night, working hard and targeting villains.
As ever, let me have your thoughts…