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Friday December 19
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17:24

James Armstrong

James Armstrong

Student Special Constable James - East Sussex

Hello, I'm James, I've joined Sussex Police People to give you an insight into my experiences of becoming a Special Constable. I'll share my ups and downs and my frustrations and excitements from pre-join course right through to Independent Patrol. I hope to give you an honest view of what it is like to go through the process, please do not hesitate to contact me with questions about anything in my blog.

Here's a bit about me:

I've worked for Sussex Police since 2008 when I became a PCSO in Lewes, my first beat being Ringmer, I later moved to Rye then to Bexhill. Before that I was a Volunteer Police Cadet then a Cadet Leader. In 2012 I became one of the first PCSO Public Engagement Officers, some may remember my blog when in this role, then in 2013 realising how much I enjoyed the engagement and communciations role I applied for and was subsequently promoted as the Divisional Communications Manager for East Sussex and now I am becoming a Special Constable too.

My blog

Wednesday 10 December 18:01

Domestic abuse hurts everyone...

On Tuesday, 25 November I attended the ‘Domestic Abuse Hurts Everyone’ conference as part of my day job.

The conference, held at Bannatynes spa and hotel in Hastings, was attended by school governors, doctor surgery managers, local councillors and senior police officers, among others. It was run by the East Sussex Safer Communities Partnership on White Ribbon day, a campaign which puts the onus on men and boys speaking out against violence towards women and girls.

It came just under a week after my first experiences of ‘dealing with’ domestic incidents as a Special Constable and although I knew a bit about domestic abuse (DA) beforehand it was still an eye opener. In particular the ‘Mockingbird High’ production by Certain Curtain Theatre really made an impact, giving an evocative performance and opening my eyes to the damage DA does to whole families.

So… My second shift was much busier than my first, most of the evening was taken up with calls related to mental health and domestic related incidents; I’ll write about the former sometime in the future but today I’d like to concentrate on the latter.

The first incident was domestic related in that it involved an ex boyfriend and girlfriend. It however did not involve domestic abuse. It was more about a man finding it difficult to cope with the break-up of his relationship, but when we attended all we needed to do was give the caller (his ex-girlfriend) some advice and log the details of the incident.

The next domestic was a difficult one, involving a woman who had been abused in the past and whose scars, both mental and physical, were clearly visible.

She had called us after trying to self-harm but being stopped by her current boyfriend, someone who by the looks of it cared for her much more than her previous relationships. So why was it difficult? Well, just think about what went through our minds as we rushed there, not knowing what we were going to come across… the woman had called us stating she had been pushed over by her boyfriend, as it turned out he was trying to protect her from herself, but we didn’t know that at first.

As we got to the door the accused man opened it, perfectly calm but looking understandably worried. My colleague spoke to him whilst I spoke to her, we then convened to decide what was going on here… After a police computer check and talking to both parties we decided no assault had taken place, but that this woman was clearly not in a good place.

She was going to a rape survivors support group that night and we thought that was a good place for her to be among friends so agreed she should go, then stay with a friend.

It all ended amicably enough and my colleague made sure mental health services and our own vulnerable adult team were aware of her and of the incident.

But what if we were wrong? What if our judgement wasn’t quite right? What if he was abusing her, he had pushed her? Was it all a clever ploy to make us disbelieve her? These were all thoughts that ran through my mind, all we could do was research her history, his history, go on experience and do the best we could. And we did the right thing, we ensured she was getting help, we did everything we could.

But after that conference I wondered, had others done the right thing in the past? Had she reported her abusers and been ignored? Is that why she is the way she is now? Had failings in the past brought her to this conclusion?

Anyway… where’s this blog going then? Well, I suppose what I wanted to do was to give you an insight into the problems police face when dealing with possible domestic abuse, it is difficult to establish facts and work out the best course of action. I also wanted to push the point Mockingbird High made… how awful the damage caused by DA is, to the survivor, their family, their friends, the people caring for them in the future.

I think it is up to us all to speak out against it, not just the police but all of society working together… That was what this conference was about… recognising that we are all doing a lot but that there is so much to do in changing attitudes. One attitude challenged by the conference was the one that leads people to think “Why doesn’t she just leave?” when talking about a DA victim, well why doesn’t he just stop? Was the rebuttal, and I think a challenge we should all make when hearing those words!

The damage to the women we dealt with that shift was obvious and worrying. But by providing support for current victims and future survivors and working with possible offenders we can help stop more women like her suffering in the future.

Finally, I want to make a point about White Ribbon and about Sussex Police’s DA campaign encouraging victims to come forward. We talk a lot about victims being women, but victims can also be men, of all ages, sexual orientations etc etc…

We shouldn’t forget those other victims and we should do all we can to support them and to stop DA against all. But we should also not lose sight, because of some misguided ‘political correctness’ or sexism, of the fact that the majority of victims are women and girls and because of this fact they are more at risk.

To learn more about Sussex Police’s DA campaign click here: http://www.sussex.police.uk/help-centre/ask-us/domestic-abuse

An example of one of the ‘Talk to us, we can help’ posters from Sussex Police and partner organisations…

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Thursday 20 November 20:29

“Are you new?” – The story of SC Heather Norman’s first arrest

(Good evening, here’s another blog from one of my SC cohort. It’s a good one, enjoy. James)

It was that day again. It was my 4th shift as a Special and my first late shift, I had a gut feeling something was different about tonight and it definitely was!

Me, signing my attestation oath on 6th October :-)

I logged on and read through self-briefing, all routine so far… Then my tutor (PC Tash Swan) for the day asked if I had done an arrest before - Suddenly I knew, tonight was the night! Many thoughts ran through my mind, can I do it? Am I actually ready? I got a small brief about what I was arresting for and then we left the station. I was accompanied by SC Basith, who I did my training with so was comforting to have by my side, and 2 tutors; one was hers and the other mine. We jumped in the van and off we went. Looking back now that 10 minute journey was the longest and the shortest minutes of my life. We spent a few minutes going through what I would say, I’m sure I asked Tash to go through it about 5 times before it actually sunk in! 

The countdown was done - I’m outside the house, 6 months of training had come down to this moment. I knocked on the door and we went inside, I identified the man and arrested him. All I kept thinking was why isn’t he kicking off? I had the dream arrest, the man stood there and listened quietly to my every word. After my colleague searched him I took a grip of his arm and walked him to the van. 

We drove to custody and, after a small talk in the van, SC Basith took the detained person (DP) while I checked the vehicle, just in case he had managed to drop something along the way. During this time Tash gave me another quick talk about how to present him to the Sergeant. I would probably say this was the bit I was most worried about, I didn’t want to mess up, it was my first time though, how could it possibly go right? Two minutes later we were buzzed into custody and I walked up to the Sergeant and gave him the circumstances of the arrest and the necessity for it. All I kept thinking was ‘please go right!’ It only took about 45 seconds to explain and the Sergeant didn’t ask any questions after, so maybe it did go ok!? After a few more minutes of the Sergeant talking to the DP they took him to the cell.

The Sergeant then called me over and asked, ‘are you new?’ That was it, my heart sunk. I obviously came across nervous and lacking in knowledge, I must’ve done something wrong! ‘Yes’ I said, ‘it’s my first arrest’. He looked at me and said ‘good job’ - Those two words meant more to me than anything I’ve done in my whole life!

I left custody with a straight face but my insides were dancing. I felt emotionally drained after that first hour but I carried on the rest of my shift with a whole lot more confidence! I hope that Sergeant knows how important those two words were to me and that praise will help me become a better officer.

So that’s me ‘signed off’ for arrest, and for conveying & presenting a DP to custody!

Can’t wait for the next shift. Thank you for reading,

Heather

Thursday 6 November 19:24

First shift frustrations...

A week ago this evening I was at home and in pain, limping around like a lame penguin following my first shift as a Special Constable! Had I been injured on duty? No, far from it… My shift had worsened an injury I had received the Saturday before when running ‘Tough Mudder’!

So lets start at the beginning… it’s 9.45am, I’ve got my uniform on and I’m ready to go. I walk into the office, say hello to everyone and sit down to brief myself on anything that’s happened or is happening and any people or vehicles I need to know about. Next my tutor constable and I walk to the custody centre to collect my PAVA spray (you’d probably refer to it as pepper spray) – As it’s my first day this is where I have to collect it from ready to be secured in my own locker at the end of every shift – Then we go for a foot patrol into Eastbourne town centre as there’s no cars available for us (the response teams quite rightly take precedence), this is where my day begins to become frustrating!!

Now, I don’t mind walking and foot patrol is a great way to be seen and to be approached by members of the public but on my first shift I wanted the flexibility to respond to anything and sign off some of my competencies for obtaining independent patrol but unfortunately it was not to be…

I still had high hopes that we’d achieve something however so as we walked around the town we kept our eyes peeled and on the lookout for anything untoward. But apart from a driver going the wrong way up a one-way street, us having to stop the traffic to turn her around, and a few people asking for directions our patrol didn’t prove too fruitful or interesting.

You could argue just our presence may have prevented a crime and that’s all well a good but simply not having a car and hearing jobs come over the radio that we could have dealt with if we did have a car was incredibly frustrating for a first day!

Anyway, we patrolled for around three hours then went back to Hammonds Drive Police Base for lunch, at this point I was limping about, my foot was in quite a bit of pain and was sweltering in my stab vest, but I still wanted to finish the shift, unfortunately though my tutor suddenly had a few enquiries to make and some paper work to do so I was left undertaking some online training about the new anti-social behaviour and policing act and information handling… a thrilling afternoon! But nonetheless some important knowledge to have.

After I had done those bits of training I finished early, there was nothing more I could do really and I needed to get home to rest ready for my shift the next day! But as the night went on and I sat at home in pain I decided to cancel Friday’s shift, I was no use to anyone, I certainly couldn’t have run after a fleeing thief!

So, all in all a fairly frustrating shift resulting in the flaring up of an injury and the cancelling of my next shift! So most certainly not as interesting as my fellow cohorts’ shifts but still it was nice to get out in uniform.

My foot still hurts but I am hoping it’ll be okay for my next shifts, which I am looking to book now.

Oh, I wrote about the day on the @EBourneSpecials twitter account so go check it out for more from me and my Eastbourne Special colleagues.

See you soon,
James

Tuesday 28 October 16:27

"The adrenaline and first day nerves shot through me" - By SC Jeremy Deval

(Hello, hello! So here’s the next guest blog, this time from new Brighton and Hove Special Constable Jeremy Deval. My first shifts are later this week so expect to see something from me soon. James) 

Following our induction I was given a brief of what my first shift would entail. We were to be attending the home of a known man to execute an arrest in relation to fraud, followed by a search of his premises, and then to escort him to custody; my first shift and I would be doing all of this?! 

In anticipation I brushed up on a few areas from my training - section 17, followed by a section 32, then a section 54 at custody. It also meant time for a quick refresher on my PACE knowledge. I know most of that won’t mean much to most but in training we began talking in sections etc, it’s strange how quickly you find yourself talking in ‘police speak’!

So… I had spent the night before reading through my powers and preparing myself for the following morning.

Bright and early we set out in the police van - 3 regular Police Officers, me and another Special Constable - Unfortunately on arrival our suspect had already left. I quickly learnt that knowing my powers and having the knowledge to act was important, but also learnt in the world of policing, it doesn’t always go how you would like it to…

I was really quite nervous sat in the back of the van prior to attending, but my tutor was really good at reassuring me and making sure I was as prepared as I could be. Although understandably nervous, I felt fully supported and comfortable.

It was a shame I didn’t get to carry out the arrest as I think it would have been a great opportunity to put everything I had learnt in my initial training into practice. Although disappointed, I have no doubt there will be other opportunities.

Later that morning I was faced with my first emergency, an RTC between a van and a cyclist. The radio called out our call sign, and what was probably a good five-minute drive through Brighton, even on blue lights, felt like only seconds!

(Me (SC Deval) in training)

The blue light call to the RTC (Road Traffic Collision) was extremely exciting - the adrenaline and first day nerves shot through me - but by paying good attention to the radio in the car and recalling my knowledge from our road traffic weekend, I felt at ease on arrival and began taking details from the young cyclist involved in the collision.

Fortunately he suffered only minor cuts and grazes, nevertheless we were there as soon as we could and offered support to the young lad, and to the paramedic on scene.

Still full of adrenaline we headed back to the station to fill out the collisions form and other relevant paperwork.

I felt a great sense of pride throughout the day. This first day for me was super exciting; it really put things into perspective and reinforced in my mind that becoming a Special Constable is one of the best things I have done.

I would say to anyone reading, or interested in becoming a Special Constable to really consider applying. I have since had a few more shifts, all as equally exciting and rewarding as my first. I already cannot wait for my next one.

Thank you for reading :-)

Jeremy

Friday 17 October 18:07

My first week on the job... By Special Constable Owen

(Evening all!! James here. I’ve asked a couple of my new SC colleagues to write a few guest blogs about their experiences (to give me a break from all the writing!). First up is SC Andre Owen. Hope you enjoy it)

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After my induction on Tuesday evening, I decided to get my first shift in sooner rather than later. So Wednesday at 8am it was.

I arrived at the station nice and early, got ready and reported for duty. We had a team briefing where Sergeant Napier welcomed me on my first shift. I was partnered up with PC Craig Roberts.

First job, we went to deal with a young person, having got into trouble for smoking Cannabis. He was tasked with researching the effects of drugs, and explaining it to us. This is known as a community resolution, which is a lovely way of first time offenders admitting doing wrong, and helps them avoid a criminal record, allowing a better future for them.

Then we went out on patrol in the van, assisting with a person running from the police and a missing little girl in Eastbourne, to mention just a few jobs. Don’t worry the little girl was found all ok which was lovely to hear. Also, my first blue light run. Exciting!

Then came my first ever traffic stop. I noticed a driver with red lights on the front of his car. Red lights are only for the back of cars, so we stopped him. Hats on, we checked out the driver, car and everything was in order. We gave him words of advice on how they could be dangerous, and told the owner he needed to remove them to which he agreed. I couldn’t help but smile to myself when getting back in the van, first traffic stop done!

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We went back to the station and wrote it all up. First shift finished. It was a lovely feeling. Helping serve the good people of Sussex as a Special Constable. I couldn’t wait for my next shift.

Fortunately for me that was today (Friday, 17 October). I was partnered up with PC Sue Marshall and we had a job to go and arrest a man on suspicion of assault. Could this be my first arrest? Not on this occasion, the guy we were looking for wasn’t at home, so we went on patrol in the car, showing the public we were around if they need us.

Late morning, we got a call to a report of a person that had been stopped by a store detective for shoplifting. We were called to attend, and after hearing what happened I arrested her. I didn’t mess up the caution (phew!) and we dealt with it by way of a £90 fine (an expensive trip out I think you’ll agree). She was banned from the shop and we headed back to write it all up.

All in all a very rewarding first week. If anyone is thinking of becoming a special, I would always say go for it. The feeling of team and family is lovely; the job is also very exciting and rewarding… so I think so far. Can’t wait for the next shift.

If you want to hear more from me and the other Eastbourne Specials follow us on Twitter @EBourneSpecials #SCOwen

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Thanks for reading,

Andre

Thursday 9 October 17:34

You're police officers now...

I’ve no idea when foundation training Inspector Taylor uttered those four words but in the nervous haze of our attestation evening I know she did and as I woke on Tuesday morning those words bounced round my mind like an echo in an empty room…

You’re police officers now!

On Monday evening, after months of studying, training, learning and giving up our evenings and weekends the moment we were all waiting for had come… We were about to become warranted police officers!

The nerves were piling up and as I helped set up the room as part of my day job I couldn’t help but share a photo of the setting with my colleagues, making them all just as nervous! To add to the nervousness our photographer decided to hit me in the face with a metal pole (accidentally of course, or so he says!)!! Disaster I thought!! But luckily no bruise for the photos.

Families began to arrive and the tension increased, then as we all walked down to the sports hall which had been ‘transformed’ into the setting for this extremely important night, the nervous energy was palpable!

I knew I was first up, the curse of the alphabet!! But as we had our briefing the senior trainer sprung a practice go on me to demonstrate the process… Meaning I had to read the oath twice!! TWICE? I wasn’t sure I could eloquently manage once but I had no choice. To my relief my role as guinea pig went without a hitch… with a bow to mask the shakes and a worried walk back to my seat I knew the next time would be for real…

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(ACC Smith addressing the room)

Inspector Taylor introduced the families to the room followed by ACC Robin Smith and Justice of the Peace Carole Shaves. We all stood to greet them, sat back down and awaited the first name to be read, my name!

My oath was over in what felt like hours during, but seconds after. Carole Shaves, the Magistrate there to sign our oaths, was however very friendly and calming making the whole experience slightly less nerve wrecking.

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(Me taking my attestation oath)

After reading and signing the oath I sat and watched each of my cohort bravely take to the stage, each and every one more nervous than the last and each and every one just as worthy as the next. Listening to those words over and over again gave them even more meaning and after ACC Smith’s speech about the reality of what we were doing you could feel the nerves turn to pride and by the time we left that night I know we all went away feeling proud and ready to get out there!

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(All 33 of us newly warranted Special Constables)

So, the next time I wear my uniform it’ll be for real! We’re police officers now! Some of the cohort have already gone on their first shift, some are out tonight.

The Eastbourne Specials induction is next Tuesday and our first shifts very soon after. I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure my colleagues are too.

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(Eastbourne Specials’ new recruits)

I’ll continue to keep you updated and I hope you continue to enjoy my journey to independent patrol status.

Thanks for reading,

James

Monday 6 October 22:27

It all got a bit real tonight… 33 new Special Constables took their attestation oath… Including ME!

Meaning we’re now officially warranted police officers!!

I’m a bit tired now but promise to write a proper blog about tonight asap… It was a nerve wracking experience but you could see the pride beaming from everyone :-)

Good night.

Sunday 5 October 19:35

Scenario Sunday! Today was our final Specials training day… It was a long, nerve wracking, fun, reassuring, tiring, scary, roller coaster of a day but overall a brilliant learning experience!

I won’t go into details of the scenarios so I don’t ruin the surprise for future participants but needless to say none of the ‘actors’ let us off easy - All officers and staff members themselves they knew what buttons to press and made sure it felt like a real incident! My first Sergeant as a PCSO played the custody Sergeant too… I heard he definitely didn’t go easy on anyone!

So we only have tomorrow left now… Our attestation, where we are sworn in by a magistrate, get our warrant cards and officially become police officers!!

Next time we put our operational uniforms on we’ll be doing it for real!! Daunting to say the least!!

Saturday 4 October 18:30

Day two of our final Specials training weekend… Today was traffic (Roads Policing) day! The trainers admited the subject can be a bit boring to learn but it wasn’t too bad… We even learnt how to place cones!! (Sarcasm intended but was actually quite useful)

Very relieved we all passed the breathalyzer test ;-) Ben (pictured) does look a bit nervous though!

I’m looking forward to the scenario day tomorrow… Sure it’ll be fun but really not great with role play! Nervous :-/

Friday 3 October 20:57

The beginning of a long weekend!

By the end of this we’ll all be warranted officers!

Monday 22 September 15:52

Sierra Oscar from Alpha One Zero Four...

…or Sierra Oscar from Alpha Tango Zero Zero Zero One as SC Deval put it!!

This weekend brought back many memories for me, from rookie mistakes such as pressing the red button on your radio because “well, I thought it was off?!” (the red emergency button still works when off, which two colleagues learnt the hard way! A doughnut fine was of course paid!) to my esteemed crewing partner’s (SC Deval) inability to remember our call sign and finally everyone’s complete inability to stick to correct radio procedure whilst practising around HQ!

It was a fun weekend… Saturday was IT training, which was less fun but luckily my trainer understood I knew most of what was being taught so allowed me to tune out for the morning and get on with day job work. I still stayed fairly well tuned in though - for such a, well, uninspiring subject, Jo, the trainer, was certainly entertaining and kept us awake for the full day, which was quite a feat considering she was having to teach us things like how to book on duty and send an email!

Moving on to Sunday and the opening lines of this blog… Again most of the day was more of a refresher for me rather than my first rodeo, but I found it very helpful still and actually quite fun! It was the first day we’d all been in almost full uniform (most of us, despite the very smug SC Stuckey, have yet to be issued our stab vests) and we all looked pretty good if I do say so myself… For many its the first job they’ve worn such a uniform so its a bit of a novelty, but above that it does carry with it a sense of pride… I know I felt proud putting my custodian helmet on, and I am sure my colleagues did too.

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Pictured: SCs Emily Burton, Amy Goff, Jezz Deval and me patrolling HQ on Sunday.

The day was about proper use of the radio and in the afternoon a group of us walked around HQ in our uniform being directed to different locations to report back. Suddenly everything felt very real and although the conditions were nothing like what we will experience ‘on the beat’ I certainly felt a kick of reality!

It’s been a long road but there’s just one more weekend left, where we’ll be tested in scenarios then sworn in as Police Officers! Quite daunting in a way, but I am looking forward to it. In the words of SC Basith The Sweat ,The Time, The Devotion, It Pays off — feeling proud.”

Thanks for reading and see you soon,

James

Monday 15 September 19:12

Once upon a busy September...

We’re only 15 days in but my September has already included working at the NATO summit, visiting three different countries (one was England so I suppose doesn’t count), meeting colleagues from all over the UK, Specials personal safety training assessments and working non-stop. Here’s a quick run through…

27 August – NATO Summit, Wales

I drove to Wales and spent 10 days working with colleagues from all over the UK as a communications/press officer for the policing and security operation at the NATO Summit. It was a great experience and I will work on a blog specifically about it soon. The one main thing I took away from it though was the can-do, ‘we’re all in it together’ attitude of my communications colleagues and the police officers on the ground. The whole operation was a great platform to show off British policing at its best and I think we achieved that incredibly well.

6 September – Specials assessments, Lewes

After those 10 days I came back to a weekend of Specials training and assessments. The first task? To undertake a written test, which I wasn’t confident about as the previous 10 days had left me very little time to revise! I managed it though, as did my colleagues - overall the class did brilliantly with an average mark of 94%

But it wasn’t over yet, the part I was dreading the most, the physical assessment, was on Sunday. Here we were paired up and had to demonstrate certain techniques on each other, these included hand-cuffing, searching, tactical communications and more. I was particularly worried as I don’t really like role playing and as I’ve mentioned before physical force doesn’t come naturally to me but as it turned out, just like the test the day before, I had nothing to worry about; I did drop my cuff keys once and had to deal with my cuffs being deadlocked at one point but I dealt with it as I felt I would in real life and passed!! Got some great feedback too :-)

After the two days a few of us went to a local pub to celebrate our achievements over the weekend, it was certainly well earned!

8 September – Firefighting emails, Lewes and Surrey

It’s fair to say I was feeling ever so slightly tired by this point but there was no stopping. The next day I was in to work and fighting against the pile of emails that had accumulated in my absence and the work that had to be done before going away again.

Foolishly I had booked a long weekend in Dublin just three days after the Specials weekend so only had those three days to get stuff done, get packed again and get off…

On the last of those days I visited Surrey Police HQ to talk about social media strategy etc and was pleasantly surprised to bump into a couple of colleagues who had joined me at the NATO Summit. Sussex and Surrey Police are working in ever closer partnership so it’s good to know a couple of people there.

11 September – Rest days! Dublin, Ireland

And finally, after almost three weeks (if you include Specials weekends) of constant work and no rest I at last had time to relax on a long weekend in Dublin. I couldn’t stay away from policing for long though! Whilst there I visited Dublin Castle, which turns out has a police station attached (check out the Garda lamp in the pics below) and a memorial garden for officers just outside.

The garden was humbling to visit and I did feel part of a wider policing family as I stood there. The wall in the photo below, with the glass shard sticking out of it, is supposed to represent the the fragility of life. 

I also visited the old Dublin Gaol (prison) and was surprised to learn it had featured in one of my all-time favourite films, The Italian Job! I recognised it instantly and had to get a photo :-)

The rest of my trip was spent sightseeing and taking in a bit of Irish culture. Being half Irish myself I found it quite interesting not just learning a bit about Irish history but also experiencing some of the less touristy locations too. It was a great way to spend my only rest days in a while.

All this travelling and working has exhausted me, but it’s all been worth it and has made me crave more! Perhaps Scotland before the month is out?! But first, back to work tomorrow and Specials IT and radio training this coming weekend!!

Thanks for reading,

James

PS. Apologies for the long blog…

Tuesday 2 September 20:53

Castles and cuffs...

A quick blog today because I didn’t want to leave it too long before updating but haven’t got the time to throw something better together…

I’m in Wales all this week helping out through ‘Mutual Aid’ as a communications / press officer for the security and policing operation here at the NATO Summit. There’s lots of work to do (follow our Twitter account to find out what we’re up to: http://www.twitter.com/NATOWalesPolice) but I’m still getting time to enjoy some of Cardiff and Newport, check out my Castle pic below :-)

However, whilst working here (which is really interesting and I will write a proper blog about it soon) I’m trying to find time to revise for my personal safety training test on the day I get back home this Saturday. It’s been going alright I think, I’ve not spent enough time going over all the theory I need to know yet but the basics are in my head and too be honest it’s not the theory that’s worrying me… It’s the practical!

My SC colleagues have been getting together this week to practice searching, cuffing etc on each other (see below) but I’ve not really been able to so am worried I’ll get something horrendously wrong! We’ll see! Anyway, I’m off to relax before my stupid o’clock start tomorrow :-)

Saturday 23 August 16:42

Use of force - It doesn't come naturally

I have to admit I don’t feel too confident after personal safety training today…

We were issued with our batons, handcuffs, limb restraints and spit guards and practiced using them all. None of it came naturally to me but I suppose restraining someone or using a weapon on them shouldn’t come naturally to anyone; its something I obviously didn’t have to do as a PCSO and as a general rule I’m not an aggressive person, however it is a sad reality of life that police officers come into contact with those who wish to do them or others harm and so we have to know how to protect ourselves and others and ensure the safety of a suspect at the same time.

I felt more comfortable at the last training weekend and I think that’s because we were just using our bodies and not other equipment.

Don’t get me wrong, by the end of today I did feel like I’d be capable of using the techniques tought, its just I don’t think I’d feel comfortable doing so or that I’d want to… But that’s not a bad thing, I’d rather calm a situation with communication than physically but if I had to I think I could.

Anyway, there was a lot to take in today and more tomorrow. I’m going to try to get some videos and photos of the training to show you but its been so intense so far that there’s barely been time.

Either way I’ll update you after tomorrow’s session, oh and thank you to the colleagues of mine for their kind words on my blog today, very much appreciated.

See you soon,

James

Tuesday 19 August 18:22

Breaking news: Police are human...

Oh wait, police aren’t human?! Okay, erm… no I’m quite sure they are!

So… There’s been some criticism of the police service’s use of social media in the news today following a freedom of information request by the Press Association asking for details of investigations into officers and staff members for breaching social media guidelines.

The reports talk of a minority of officers and staff (and they are a minority) being punished for breaching various force’s social media guidance and policies and in some cases using offensive or even racist language on social media.

Firstly, I’d like to address the latter - any police officer or staff member making offensive, abusive, defamatory or racist remarks about anyone whether on social media or not should not be working for the police! If social media is the way they have been found out then great, the more weeding out of people like that the better.

Secondly, I’d like to refer back to my title - police are human and sometimes humans get things wrong. So if an officer says something they shouldn’t but that isn’t offensive - say they’ve done something as small as moaning about the 14 hour shift they just did or how their Sergeant is a slave driver, perhaps we should cut them a little slack? They are human after all and everyone says things in the heat of the moment they shouldn’t, it doesn’t mean they should be hauled in front of the Superintendent and made to explain themselves or be disciplined in some way other way, just some words of advice may suffice and perhaps a refresher about social media and the truly open medium that is the internet. We want to encourage the positive use of social media not beat down everyone who makes a mistake.

Thirdly, I’ve seen comments from the College of Policing today, from the Police Federation and from other forces defending the police using social media and quite right too. Did you know the police are part of society? And as such will always and should always change with society? Well they are, and they should. We should be using social media to communicate with the public we serve because that is how the public communicate with each other and we are and should be part of the public. Sir Robert Peel’s quote when founding the Met all those years ago still stands: “The police are the public and the public are the police”

Finally, a quick story… Yesterday I used the Sussex Police social media accounts to appeal for a lady we thought had gone missing or anyone who knew her to get in touch, within just over an hour someone got in touch via Facebook and we found that she was safe and well. A happy ending but the big moral to this story is that if we hadn’t used social media we may still be appealing, we may be waiting for the appeal to appear in the local paper, we could be using resources trying to find this lady but instead we were able to resolve the situation quickly through good communication and of course with the help of those sharing and retweeting.

So social media is great appeals, crime prevention, safety messages etc but it is also great for showing the world something that is sometimes forgotten… police are human!

Finally, finally, as I continue to learn as a Special and find myself back out ‘on the beat’ again I’ll continue to use social media to talk with the communities I am serving and I’d urge any officer, staff member, PCSO or volunteer to do the same, one of the reasons police forces have corporate communications departments is to help new users through the dos and don’ts and through the minefield that is social media. If you’re in Sussex and you are interested, you know where I am :-)

Oh, and finally, finally, finally… I tweeted the link to a BBC guide on media law earlier, and I think it’s well worth a read for anyone using social media, police or not. Remember, as a social media user you are basically a publisher and should understand the laws that you must abide by. Click here for the tweet and link: https://twitter.com/Armstrong26455/status/501632566689292288

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Thanks for reading,

James

Friday 15 August 17:58

My twelve day week...

Today is the end of what has been a looooong week. It began on Monday, 4 August and is only coming to an end now.

I’ve spent more time at Headquarters the past 12 days than I ever have (bar my PCSO training all those years ago), and I even spent all of my weekend there too…

Last weekend was the first of our personal safety training (PST) sessions. These weekends are the ones people prefix with ‘now the fun starts’; and it is fun actually, its a good way for us all to bond a little and get to know each other, perhaps a little too well!

The weekend started with the bleep test, which I am happy to report we all passed. We then had a discussion around the legislation being used when using force to restrain someone or defend ourselves or others, but more importantly we talked about communication and the 5 step communication model, because contrary to the belief of some police actually don’t want to use force on anyone for any reason so learning how to calm a situation down with communciation is incredibly important. Use of force to control a situation should ALWAYS be the final option.

In my years as a PCSO I never got into a situation where I had to defend myself physically, there were times when I almost did but knowing how to respectfully communicate with someone to calm a situation down really helped and I always find that PCs who were PCSOs before tend to be the ones who know how to talk to people well because as a PCSO your communication skills are basically your only defence so you’ve got to be good!

So, after talking through use of force and communications we got onto the practical side of things, learning some of the tactics we need to know to protect our selves and use force as safely as we can.

We were partnered up with a colleague and demonstrated each technique on each other, it was strange but everyone got used to it fairly quickly and by the end of the day my partner certainly wasn’t holding back! The next day I was aching a hell of a lot more than I thought I’d be!

On the Sunday we learnt how to search a person and you really can’t be too squeamish to get through it, or too embarrassed by your colleagues putting their hands on you!

Anyway, I am knackered now after a long 12 days at work and training and ready just relax this weekend, I’ll update you soon and I’m hoping to give you a better insight into PST too so watch this space.

Tuesday 29 July 20:40

A long weekend...

It was a long weekend, it’s Tuesday but feels like it’s next Thursday! If that makes any sense at all?

On Friday we had our introduction to the Special Constable initial course. Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith visited us and I think it’s fair to say his speech picked us up and spurred us on through the evening. It was nice to hear how important Specials are to the Sussex Police family, however I think my cards are probably marked already! Why? Well… Mr Smith pointed at me asking what I was doing there (recognising me from my day job), and I replied “What do you think I’m doing here, Sir?” It’s my patented sarcasm and dry sense of humour that tends to get me in to trouble from time to time but he took it in good jest; I’m just waiting for it to come back at me in some way now :-/

Moving on, to finish off the evening we learned first aid…. first! This followed into Saturday where we learned CPR, the recovery position etc, all stuff that quite quickly came back to me from my PCSO days.

I won’t talk about Sunday, it was pocket notebook and statement writing, both rather dry subjects, but important ones! We’ve even got a bit of homework to do on it. But I want to finish by sharing everyone’s excitement for what we ended Saturday with… 

As we walked in to the lounge assembly to find our names on boxes laid out across the room all we all wanted to do was rip the boxes open and try everything on… Yes, the moment many had been waiting for, the issuing of our brand new uniform, was here! It was exciting for everyone and kind of brought home the realisation that this is happening! We’ve got the uniform now, there’s no going back! Not that we’d want to! We also had to sign the official secrets act, which again made it even more real… probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve signed it now!

We couldn’t try it all on at HQ, we had to carry it home first and for me that meant a train journey, luckily preluded by a lift to the station from one of my SC colleagues, who confessed he’d be wearing his custodian helmet doing the cleaning that night!!

On that subject, I got home and tried it all on and my house mate’s first question was… “Why do they make you where that stupid hat?”. I explained that it is tradition and do you know what, once everything is on, it doesn’t look too bad!

Everything fit and the next day we all turned up looking pretty damn smart in our brand new shiny uniform. For me the strangest yet most familiar thing is to see uniform back in my wardrobe, feels right!

Lastly, was nice to hear over the weekend that some of my SC student and PC student colleagues have been enjoying these blogs so hello to them and thank you for reading.

James

Monday 7 July 18:59

The results are in...

I thought about writing a long, drawn out, emotional rollercoaster of a blog culminating in the climatic announcement of my exam results…

But then I thought why torture myself even more?! Seriously, its been an excruciating weekend! I’ve tried to keep myself busy just so I don’t go over and over and over my answers in my head, it didn’t work though, I had a splitting headache all of Sunday whilst working at the Eastbourne 999 display.

So without further ado… I PASSED! Waayhoooo! I really wasn’t confident I would!

Spoke to a couple of my fellow student PC and SC colleagues too who have also passed, everyone is so happy to have got this far and I am extremely proud of everyone for the hard work done, of course that hard work isn’t over but it feels great to have achieved what we have so far.

After the exam on Saturday we had some more learning to do and I’ll be completely honest I just could not be bothered! Just needed to get out and relax, take my mind off it all! But no we had to learn about fraud, a complicated subject, and the National Crime Recording Standards, an important subject. We diligently sat up, took notice and wrote notes but to be honest I don’t think I was concentrating enough so will have to catch myself up with what we were taught.

So, next step? For the PCs it’s more classroom learning and another exam, I feel sorry for them! For us SCs it’s the start of some more of the ‘fun’ stuff, still with some classroom learning but with more practical stuff thrown in too.

Our introduction to the SC induction course is on 25 July where Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith will welcome us to our new voluntary career.

Well anyway, I’m off to celebrate a bit, good luck to those who are yet to receive their results, you’ll be fine! And congratulations to those who have passed.

I’ll catch you up as and when I can,
James

Thursday 3 July 18:06

Running...

…out of time!! It certainly feels like it! Only two more nights of intense revision before the exam on Saturday!

Feels like all I’ve been doing the past few weeks is revision and home study, alongside normal work of course! I’ve definitely neglected other things though, running for instance.

I only started running regularly in December for ‘Run to Remember’ but it left its legacy and I really got into it, it became relaxing in a way, a chance to clear the mind and rejuvenate, which is why a few days ago after a particularly long day and after realising I hadn’t ran for almost two weeks I got out to try to clear my brain of all this ‘PACE section this’, ‘Criminal Justice Act section that’ stuff!

I was hopeful that a nice run would help me regroup and re-energise ready for another round of revision. It was a lovely evening, as you’ll see by the attached photo of Eastbourne seafront taken on the way, and all was well until a quarter of the way in to my nice seafront run when my brain went into study mode…

"Recite the caution" it said, "stop listening to that running sound track and start listening to that policing exams audio" it screamed, "why aren’t you going over the Theft Act again?" it asked, "hey, how about you start thinking of a blog to write about this very run, that’ll help!" it suggested, and on and on and on it went!

You get the jist! This knowledge of policing thing has taken over my brain and won’t let go… I am hoping that after the exam and the excruciating wait over the weekend it’ll ease up for a bit, at least until my induction two weeks later, if I pass the exam of course!! :-/

Right then, off to attempt another run, then more revision it is! Wish me luck…

James

Oh, want to know a bit more about Run to Remember? More here: http://www.sussex.police.uk/whats-happening/latest/news-stories/2014/04/08/sussex-polices-run-to-remember-team-raises-%C2%A34,000

Sunday 29 June 18:13

A week to go...

Yep, less than a week to go until our block five exam then two weeks later we’re on the initial course!

This time next week I’ll be anxiously awaiting the results having taken the exam the day before, they are cruel making us wait until Monday, AND after the exam on the Saturday morning we’re being put through more learning!! Very cruel!!

Hopefully the good natured annoyance is coming through?! I do understand though… Gives us all an excuse to celebrate prematurely over the weekend, let’s just hope we all pass!

To be honest I’m quite confident we all will. We had a revision session last Saturday and that seemed to go pretty well, I felt reassured that we mostly knew what we were on about! Still not looking forward to the exam though!

Anyway, for the next week every free evening of mine will be spent revising and getting my last few bits of home study done, its going to be a long week!

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