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,
Thursday 3 July 18:06
…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…
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!
Tuesday 17 June 17:28
Secrets of the police...
I watched Dispatches, Secrets of the Police last night. The episode focused on racism and what police forces are doing to tackle complaints of racism involving their officers and staff members.
There were some astonishing figures stating that less than 1% of all allegations of racism were upheld between 2008 and 2012, and that did shock me. But it did make me wonder about where those figures were coming from, in fact in the program it was mentioned that a large majority of those allegations were from the two major cities in England and Wales - London and Manchester.
And this is something that always worries me, the country hears so much bad news and negative press from the larger police forces and hears less of the good stuff and less of what is happening in all of the other forces, this gives the general public a skewed view on the police, tarring them all with the same brush.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t hear about those bad things, on the contrary I believe we need to be more honest and open across the board, and I am not trying to blame certain forces for how the police service is portrayed overall, because we’ve all got a part to play. But what I am saying is let’s stop to think for a second, let’s not tar all police with the same brush…And importantly let’s talk about issues like this!
After the program I took to Twitter to see what people were saying about the program, it wasn’t very pretty and not very complementary of the police, which I completely understand, but one thing I noticed was a lack of conversation from police, and there’s a lot of them/us on Twitter - I think that’s a problem, the police should be part of our communities and should be talking with them about everything, we shouldn’t be afraid to speak about racism or any other form of discrimination, and sometimes that is the problem, officers are worried about saying anything for fear of saying the wrong thing…
And most of them shouldn’t be worried, most of them do not discriminate against anyone, I know I may be biased and I can only tell you about my experiences but I can tell you now that all the way through my policing career so far and through becoming a Special Constable I have been highly impressed with the importance Sussex Police put on treating everyone the way they should be treated, not discriminating because of race, religion, disability or anything else, and weeding out the officers and staff that do, because unfortunately you get people in every organisation who manage to ‘slip through the net’.
On my first day’s training on the pre-join course the senior trainer made it extremely clear – “If your behaviour is not up to our standards [a very high standard I might add] then goodbye! I will not allow you to become a Police Officer and that is the last we will see of you”. And I completely believed her; in fact I believe that at that point everyone in that room was empowered with a sense of pride to uphold those standards and importantly to report those not doing so.
Since then we have conducted training around equality and diversity and very recently undertook some learning about stop and search powers, very clear powers which include the fact that your reasonable grounds for stopping someone must be without discrimination, you can’t just stop someone because of past knowledge or because you are, as quoted from Dispatches “a naturally suspicious person”, that is unlawful and unjust, you need reasonable grounds, and you need to be able to evidence this.
I know I’ve gone on a bit but it’s a subject I think we should always be talking about until there’s finally no need to. From what I’ve seen through training and through ongoing work involving our minority ethnic communities in Sussex which I have been involved in, I believe Sussex Police are doing a lot to tackle this issue and continue to improve relationships.
Now, my main message overall here is - lets talk about it more, lets talk about learning from when things don’t go right, when someone, anyone, the police or the public discriminates against anyone else, lets hold them to account for it as a community and lets celebrate when communities, no matter what race, religion, sexual orientation etc etc, work well together and lives in harmony… The more good news we can get out there the better and the more ‘bad eggs’ we can show the door to or prevent from working in the police even better.
That’s my two pennies worth,
Thank you for reading,
Tuesday 10 June 20:31
Time does fly... don't let it catch up!
We’re now on block three of the pre-join course, and it has flown by. They say ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ but time also flies when you’re trying not let it catch up with you!
As my other blogs suggest the first two blocks were intense in terms of home-study, and so diverse too - one second learning about stop and search and the next about diplomatic immunity or the Police and Criminal Evidence Act - but now the pressure has begun to ease off, this block’s home-study has less elements to it so will hopefully take up less time, which is just as well as I start the next assignment for the university course I’m doing this weekend!
Colleagues and friends have said to me, “well don’t you know most of it already?”, referring to my time as a PCSO. No, certainly not, yes it has helped and yes there are processes that are familiar to me and law language which helps my understanding but a PCSO’s job is different to that of an SC or PC and there is so much more to know and understand than there is for a PCSO.
On Wednesday however my PCSO training did come in handy when we learnt some best practice around Pocket Notebooks (PNB). I didn’t get everything right, I’m a bit rusty but my original training from six years ago, and in fact from when I was a Police Cadet many years ago, came flooding back and just writing in a torn out page (NEVER tear out a page of your PNB, never… we were training so allowed!) brought back some memories, I’m definitely looking forward to getting back out there!
Getting back out there will come around quickly too. Us Specials only have this block then two others before starting our initial course, after passing the block five exam that is!!
The future PCs have another five blocks (that’s another 10 weeks) when we move on to our initial course, not sure I’d fancy doing another 10 weeks of this! But good luck to those who will.
Merry Tuesday y’all,
Monday 2 June 10:02
Stick to the day job... AND do something Special
I was told to stick to the day job following my utterly useless poem thing last week! I’d have to agree!
My poem certainly didn’t go down well, I was also told it was embarrassing and asked why I did that to myself. Well, despite policing being a very serious job whatever role you have, I think you’d go mad if you took yourself seriously all the time, a bit of self deprecation and embarrassment doesn’t hurt every now and then!
Moving on, yes I’ll stick to the day job but whilst doing something Special, and the meaning of today’s blog is to encourage readers out there to do the same.
Today Sussex Police opened recruitment for Special Constables, a link to my blog was included in the press release so if you’ve found yourself here through that link thank you for taking an interest in my musings and I hope your application goes well.
Haven’t decided whether you want to make that application yet? Well, let me refer you to my very first blog dated the 1st of May. I hope that gives you an idea of what it is like to be part of Sussex Police and I hope it inspires you to make that application.
A word of warning though, if you’re work shy, aren’t open to learning in your own time, don’t represent everything a police officer should be and don’t have an open mind or the drive to take personal responsibility for upholding the values of the police service and the law you won’t get far.
We’re lucky in Sussex to have dedicated, knowledgeable and community spirited Special Constables volunteering to help keep Sussex safe and if you do decide to apply, yes it will be a steep learning curve, it certainly has been for me so far despite a policing background, and there will be a lot of work to do but although I’m not a fully fledged Special just yet I know it will be an incredibly rewarding new part of your life, as it will be for me.
If you think you have what it takes and want a rewarding volunteering career just go for it, you’ll be joining like minded people who want to do the best for their communities and their colleagues.
Find out more about becoming a Special Constable here: www.sussexspecials.com
And if you want to know something about the training I’m doing right now jump over to twitter and ask me - Username @Armstrong26455.
Oh, and this week is National Volunteers Week so be sure to keep an eye on #VolunteersWeek on social media to learn more about what our volunteers in Sussex do for us.
Wednesday 28 May 19:03
Hopeless home-study inspired poetry...
One of our trainers has written a poetry book and recited one of them, about fear of crime, entitled something along the lines of ‘the car park’ the other day.
It was very good and inspired me to write my own absolutely useless poem/rhyme type thing, I’m not saying his was useless, his was brilliant, but mine, well mine is just an extremely poor attempt!
Week four of the pre-join course,
I’m now quite sure what I’ve let myself in for,
The home-study has been hard for me,
I’m a self-diagnosed crammer you see,
Its not that I’m lazy, I work hard,
Its not that I don’t understand, but it did catch me off guard,
With lots of work to do each day there’s sometimes slight dismay,
But hey, best shut up now go get on my home-study!
See! Told you it was hopeless! Helps if you try to rhyme ‘home-study’ with ‘dismay’ at the end… Hmmmm… Right, I’m off to learn a bit more about the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
Friday 23 May 21:40
Home-study, home-study, home-study...
I think I underestimated just how much home-study there would be…
I know I said it wouldn’t be easy and there would be a lot to learn but our first block of home-study was a real eye opener. We had 19 individual tasks to learn about various offence definitions and points to prove.
Despite the Theft Act, which I’ve known the definition of since I was a cadet all those years ago, I knew very little.
My previous knowledge certainly helped though and it may sound strange but I actually quite enjoyed reading a bit of case law and getting my head around public order, criminal damage, assaults, burglary and a few more offences.
There was so much to learn that I wondered how I’d remember it all; on Wednesday however I was surprised by just how much everyone did remember from the home-study when our learning was tested by scenarios presented to us. Scenarios involving the very unlucky Alex who got him/herself into some very questionable situations leading us to determine what offences had or hadn’t taken place.
So it seems my sacrifice during some of the sunniest days of the year so far have been worth it. Don’t get me wrong I managed to spend a bit of time outside but my laptop and notebook came with me!
I’ll be getting my next block of home-study on Saturday following a full day in the classroom and what I’ve learnt from the first lot is to seriously work on it every evening instead of waiting for a day or two off and loosing a nice sunny day to studying.
Perhaps instead I’ll waste those days catching up on my every day work instead ;-) I’m joking of course, I am constantly on the go though with either work or studying, not that its a bad thing but it’s pretty tiring!
Tuesday 13 May 19:03
Its all getting a bit real...
So yesterday I found out I already have two identities on Sussex Police’s email system - Communications Manager 26455 and Special Constable S4043! I’m only on the pre-join course with no guarantee I’ll pass and start the Specials initial course but already its all becoming a bit real…
To add to the reality hit today I went for my uniform fitting and although I’ve worn uniform before and it was wierd coming out of uniform when I did it felt odd wearing it again, this time with a black shirt and a custodian! Very strange after you’ve been used to the blue shirt and flat cap of a PCSO!
I looked pretty damn good in the custodian too, if I do say so myself, but you’ll have to wait to see that!
The other Specials on the pre-join course will be having there fittings soon too and its going to be even stranger for most who have little or no policing background, or at least no uniformed policing background. The future PCs on the same course will have to wait for that reality hit, they won’t get their fittings until they have places on their initial course, which for some could be quite a few months…
Finally, a bit more reality hit last night when I realised just how much home study I’ve got to do by next Wednesday - 18 different tasks and tests to learn about various acts and offences… Last night was the Criminal Damage Act 1971, the jist? Basically don’t intentionally or recklessly damage something that isn’t yours! Simples!
Tonight I learn about minor public order!!
As I tweeted yesterday #GoodbyeSocialLife!! It’ll all be worth it in the end though! I hope :-/
Thanks for reading, jump over to twitter and let me know if there’s anything you want to know,
Thursday 8 May 18:21
First day of school... well, pre-school!
It felt a bit like school, our first training session for the pre-join course, but in a good way! Brought back memories of college, mainly because of the content from my public uniformed services days at Lewes Sussex Downs and not because of any childish behaviour, although there was a bit of that, which I’ll get to later….
During the evening (last night) we talked about the professional standards a police officer must abide by and convey both on and off duty, the human rights act and how it relates to police officers carrying out their duties, and the media, social media and public perception.
Those latter few subjects are part of my everyday work whilst the professional standards and what is expected of a police officer are perhaps common sense but still I found the session very worthwhile and the conversations had between a cross section of people from very different backgrounds was encouraging; encouraging because it was obvious that we all knew what we getting ourselves into and we all had high standards of professionalism in mind.
Now, back to the childish behaviour… Talking about professional standards and public perception our tutors presented us with the below video of Thames Valley police officers then asked “is this representative of the police?” and for us to discuss what the public perception may be.
Automatically a wave of giggles took hold of the room and once that had subsided we began discussing in groups. My group was made up of me (obviously), a few people fresh out of university and an ex Royal Marine, so would you expect them all to have different ideas? All had come from different walks of life and I was the only one in the group with policing experience but we all had the same reaction and discussed the same pros and cons of the video, which again was encouraging.
I won’t go through all the pros and cons here because I don’t want to ruin the discussions of those attending this training session in the future but I will say they were balanced, and perception is very difficult to gather… it’s all about the viewer and their own personal beliefs at the end of the day.
So, a light hearted moment during a serious and quite important session about what will be expected of us if we pass and in fact what is now expected of us throughout this course, after all if our tutors do not deem our behaviour appropriate in class how can we expect them to allow us to become police officers?
Anyway, just wanted to give an update, I won’t bombard you with blogs after every session, doubt I’ll have time too, but as this was the first day I thought it important.
Thanks for reading,
PS. The Argus newspaper seemed to like my last blog and included it in today’s ‘Soap Box’ section so I hope you liked it just as much.
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Thursday 1 May 17:50
Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life…
A dramatic introduction to Sussex Police but never the less a true one…
On 12 April future police officers, both Special Constables (SC) and regular Police Constables (PC), took part in an induction day for the pre-join ‘Certificate in Knowledge of Policing’ (CKP) course to become student PCs and SCs.
Sergeant Casey was charged with introducing us to, as he put it, the first day of the rest our lives, and as a soon to be retiring officer with over 30 years’ service it was great to see his steadfast enthusiasm and passion for policing.
It wasn’t the first time I had gone through this kind of induction and Sergeant Casey’s dramatic introduction certainly wasn’t lost on me. As an ex-PCSO and having been involved in policing since the age of 15 as a volunteer Police Cadet I know how life changing joining Sussex Police can be, basically my entire adult life has so far been informed by and supported by Sussex Police and the people I work with.
Whether a staff member, volunteer, PCSO, SC or PC policing becomes part of you, not just a job but part of who you are, not just because of a sense of duty or legal obligation and not just because suddenly everyone you know is introducing you as ‘James, he works for the police’ (I’ve never had that in any other job - ‘this is James, he works at W.H.Smiths’ doesn’t quite have the same ring I suppose), but because once you join Sussex Police you join a community with its own language and behaviours, a family of people the majority of which are just as dedicated to public service and crime fighting as you are. They become close friends, a big part of your life and an important support network.
So yes joining 6 odd years ago as a PCSO did change my life, continues to support my career development and my future and has become part of me; but this day, 12 April, was different… This day would change my life once again, and will change the lives of every other person sat in that induction with me.
Despite my policing experience this felt like something different, not just a massive commitment on top of full time work as a Communications Manager and on top of studying towards a degree, but a commitment to take real pride in, to give back to the community and… well throw in what ever other cliches you wish.
I know it’s not going to be a bed of roses, I know it’s going to be tough fitting in the studying whilst maintaining some sort of work / home / volunteer life balance, and I think most of the people in that same room knew that too, but at the end of the day I hope it’ll be worth it!
Let’s just hope I pass the CKP and the initial SCs training, otherwise this blog could turn into a very embarrassing record of failure… But from today you’ll get to take that journey with me, success or failure!
And trust me, this blog will not be all ‘Sussex Police are great’ blah blah blah, ‘I’m having a lovely time’ etc etc… It will be honest, I will be open and I promise to give you a true reflection of what it is like to become an SC.
First training evening is this Wednesday (7 May) followed by a full day session on Saturday (10 May) so I’ll update you again after that.
See you soon and thanks for reading,