Wednesday 5 June 13:38
What was that officer's name?
I was given a polite nudge by a Twitter follower a few days ago about “someone not blogging for a while”. In fact, a whole six months have passed since my last blog, so it’s a fair cop!
So, where to begin? Plenty of subjects spring to mind, so I’ll have to make sure I work on these over the next few weeks (polite reminders on Twitter are welcome!).
As for hot topics, perhaps I should start with the current recruitment process for Police Officers in Sussex. You can find out all about this and download an application pack via http://www.sussex.police.uk/joinus/. Given that the window for applications opened on Monday 3rd June and closes at 4pm on Friday 7th of June I would strongly recommend heading there quickly as it’s an opportunity not to be missed!
No doubt there will be a serious amount of interest in the eighty or so spaces available, especially as we’ve not been recruiting for some time now. I’ve had a read through the application pack and the training program looks good. Whilst the application process looks similar to when I applied, the training looks slightly different to the university and PDU (Professional Development Unit) process that I went through. That being said, it’ll no doubt still be covering the same crucial basic (I used the word basic for want of a better term) elements of policing and have a strong emphasis on the communities with whom we work and serve.
If you become one of the lucky people to get through the initial application then I am sure that you’ll enjoy the training one way or another. Importantly, never be afraid to keep on asking questions. Learn from your colleagues experiences. In fact a strange twist of circumstances, my development officer during intial training, PC Brian Rapson, had actually been my schools officer way back when I was still in shorts! Talk about extended learning, from ‘Learning the green cross code’ to ‘learning how to deal with those who sadly didn’t listen to this advice…’.
As for applying quickly, it actually took me a period of twenty four years from thinking that I may want to become a police officer to actually applying! I actually remember the exact moment I first gave this some thought. I was sixteen years old, standing in the middle of Rickney Lane near Pevensey one morning, seeing a herd of dairy cows across the road whilst talking to the local copper. Sadly I don’t remember his name (yet oddly I remember some of the cows names!), but I recall that he worked out of Pevensey Bay. We spoke about his job and he kindly gave me some information about becoming a police officer (I was too young to join at that time, but was at least keen to find out more). From that point on becoming a police officer was always something held at the back of my mind, but for one reason or another (career paths, relationships, etc) I held off from applying.
It wasn’t until I was thirty five years old that I finally decided to apply. The Sussex Police window of opportunity was open and I felt ready to go for what I always saw as the ultimate job. Now I know that there’s always been that saying about police officers looking younger these days (I’m resisting the temptation of a moisturiser gag here) and I work with some people who joined in their late teens and early twenties, but you’d perhaps be pleasantly surprised at the extent of the age range of people who apply and become officers. The oldest person on my initial training was in his late forties.
All I can say is, whatever your age, you can bring in to this job a world of life experience that will help you, your colleagues and the community throughout your career. Draw on your life experience’s, both the positives and the not so positives and this will help you become a more rounded officer. Even my background training as a farmer has helped. I’m probably one of the only, if not the only, police officer who can say that he did a ‘sheep psychology’ session at college! It may not have helped me particularly in any direct application that springs to mind, but it always works as a great little conversation stopper (the looks I’ve been given)…
(Photo: From the days of of learning the Green Cross Code)
Saturday 15 December 16:12
Coats for Kids
(Pictured: Myself and Lizzie Legate from Victim Support)
Once again the power of social media, Twitter in particular, has shone through. About one month ago a very popular Brighton tweeter @huxley06 posted a comment about the idea of supplying winters coats to children in need and how to go about it. The comment appeared on my computer while I was browsing through Twitter one evening (one eye on Twitter, the other on something less than memorable on television).
That one tweet sparked a flurry of replies and conversation on Twitter for the remainder evening. The idea certainly struck me as a simple, yet brilliant. The next thing I knew, between those of use tweeting that evening, a meeting had been agreed and arranged to be held at Brighton’s John Street Police Station, kindly hosted by Chief Superintendent Bartlett.
From that one meeting Coats for Kids was born, consisting of people from several different partner agencies and members of the public. The concept being a way of facilitating the collection of used (but good condition) coats for children of all ages for distribution through existing organisations and charities.
Since the project started a huge number of coats have been donated and are busily being sorted and distributed to families where the children will benefit from a warm coat this winter. Currently there are two main areas for this project, all working under the same umbrella. We have Brighton & Hove Coats for Kids and Seahaven Coats for Kids (covering Saltdean through to Seaford).
I hope to update you further about this project in time. Currently, however, I would like to share some links with you that tell you more about the work going on and where you can donate coats (links below).
Needless to say there’s a lot of ongoing tweeting about #bhcoatsforkids and #seahavencoatsforkids and you can follow the main account @BHCoatsForKids. Look out for posters in your town too. Such is the level of interest, a couple radio interviews are taking place. The first one in fact happened today at Seahaven FM where myself and Victim Support worker Lizzie Legate went along to talk about this with host Martha Swift. Our interview is going to be repeated a number of times.
A key part Neighbourhood Policing is about strengthening our relationships with the community and our partner agencies. That one initial tweet has helped to bring more of us together to work on a common cause, to help local children. Those new relationships allow us to share more information and find new ways of working together (both in our own districts and across borders). Anyhow, enough chat for now, here are the links:
Drop off points: http://goo.gl/maps/wjokj
PS To my absolute delight our radio interview was finished by asking for a song request. I hope their listeners like a bit of Desmond Dekker, because I chose Shing-a-ling!
Monday 15 October 07:59
How to Age 10 Years in Minutes
The Seat With No View
For those of you who follow my Twitter account @Peacehaven_PC, you may already be aware of a recent “rapid ageing experience” that I shared with PCSO Juls Perrin. If you’ve heard it already (in 140 character bite sized Twitter chunks), then I apologise. However, I’m a firm believer in being able to laugh at yourself and it’s only fair that you get to laugh at me too (I think!?)
Not too many Fridays ago, myself and Juls were on a late shift foot patrol (working 3pm til midnight) in Telscombe Cliffs. Having already dealt with some anti social behaviour (ASB) matters at the Meridian Centre in Peacehaven earlier in the shift, we turned our attention to the local parks.
First stop the Meridian Park. Hmm, no one around. Next stop the Wimpey Park. Three young lads playing on the swings and egging each other on in a “who can say the dirtiest word competition”. I’m not sure that we reached them at the climax of the competition, but the word I heard was certainly not fit for public consumption. They were given some suitable (appropriate) words of advice and to their credit they apologised. We continued our patrol and they returned to the swings and their dreadful high energy drinks (containing enough sugar and caffeine to put me on the Moon, so I can’t believe it’s doing them any good at all).
Our next stop was Chatsworth Park in Telscombe Cliffs. This is by far the largest park in the area, at least until the new thirty acre park is completed in Peacehaven (see www.bigparksproject.org.uk for details). It was obviously one of those evenings where most people had decided to stay in. We walked past ‘the seat with no view’ (I’m curious to know if any Telscombe residents have picked up on this little gem?) and down towards the car park. Apart from one distant dog walker and a bad tempered blackbird the park was empty.
Given that it was now around 8pm we decided to start heading back to the Peacehaven Box for a bite to eat before heading back out again. Our route took us along several streets as we walked towards the South Coast Road. It was during this time that I noticed a bungalow with a flashing alarm box on the front. There was no sound, just a big flashing light. Juls and I wandered over to the bungalow. There were no lights on in the premises and no car on the driveway. I took the decision to have a look around the outside of the address for any potential sign of problems.
A partly opened window immediately raised my suspicion that something may be wrong. It was large enough that someone could easily climb through. Looking through in to a darkened room I could see no signs of disturbance. I moved on to a side door that led straight into the kitchen. Inside I could see some fairly recent signs of food preparation and also a set of keys left on the worktop. Curious! Yet more worrying was that the kitchen door was unlocked. However, before making a decision as to whether to go in, I took a look around the rest of the outside, in case something else was apparent.
Unfortunately the rear garden of the address was quite muddy, so I had to stodge around to check through the rear windows. On finding nothing else apparent at the rear I met up with Juls again by the kitchen door. We were in agreement that there could be a problem here. Perhaps a burglary? Or maybe a ‘medcon’ (medical concern). I opened the kitchen door slightly and detected an unpleasant smell. My money was increasingly on this being a medcon…
Having made the decision that we needed to check inside the bungalow, I called up on my radio to relay the circumstances and to advise that we would be going in. That being acknowledged, I stomped off the bulk of the mud from my boots, opened the kitchen door and stepped inside, placing a muddy footprint on the mat. I was very conscious of the fact that my boots weren’t pristine, but also aware that every second counts. We could potentially have someone lying ill or injured somewhere indoors.
Juls entered just behind me. We noticed a pair of ladies shoes lying on the kitchen mat. The unpleasant smell lingered in the air. As we made our way through the property, shining torches and finding light switches I repeatedly shouted “Hello, police!” There was no answer, just the silence, the torchlight and the odd muddy footprint on the floor (which was thankfully mostly laminated!)
Putting my serious hat back on for a moment, as with most police officers, I’ve dealt with a number of incidents previously where someone has sadly passed away in their home. It’s never a nice thing to deal with, but something that we do with dignity, respect and compassion. You are always mindful of the impact these matters have on other people, in particular their family. Of course, these situations impact on us too in one form or another and to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the circumstances. I had attended a suicide the day before this particular ‘incident’, a very tragic circumstance, so the prospect of finding someone was clearly still very real and fresh in my mind.
Back to the situation in hand, there were no signs of disturbance, or otherwise, in the main living areas. There was even a decent looking computer on a desk in the study and other valuable items lying around. This was highly unlikely to be a burglary. We moved in to the hallway and gradually checked each room as we worked along, still calling out “Hello, police!” Then we came to the last door on the left… it was closed.
Juls stood one side of the door and I stood the other. Just as I was about to reach for the handle, the door shook, then opened quickly. There stood in front of us was a very surprised and somewhat bewildered foreign student. Once Juls and I had climbed back down from the ceiling, we established that the home owners had gone out for a few hours and left him alone in the house. Unfortunately they had not thought to advise him that it is prudent to keep the doors and windows locked to prevent passing burglars (or concerned police officers) from wandering in!
A call came over the radio asking if Juls and I were all in order. I updated that apart from just having experienced a collective heart attack, we were OK. I took the young students details, confirming his identity and that he really was supposed to be there. Finally I left him with a card with my contact details, should the occupants wish to discuss this incident and their muddy floors with me.
…and as for the unpleasant smell?
Tuesday 18 September 17:45
How Many Hats?
As a police officer I am used to being asked all sorts of questions, both when out on foot patrols and online via Twitter. Some relate to more serious matters such as a recent crime and others are of a more general nature. I’ll always try to help where I can and where I’m left standing wondering what the answer is too, I will normally refer to a colleague or other who can provide a suitable answer.
There are of course some questions that people start with “This may sound like a silly question, but…” or “I bet you’ve been asked a hundred times, but…” Circumstances often dictate the nature of my response, but it has been known to be “There’s no such thing as a silly question, although you may get a silly answer.” In any case, I enjoy the opportunity for a chat and to help break down barriers between the police and the community (more fun in my opinion than breaking down doors, if you’ll pardon the pun).
Probably (again, if you’ll pardon the pun) the number one question has to be the inevitable “Is it true I can wee in your hat if I’m pregnant?” This is commonly asked when talking to younger groups in the local parks or by people outside of clubs who’ve enjoyed one too many alcoholic drinks.
Another popular question is “Can you arrest my mate?” Funnily enough, this tends to be the question of choice when I wander in to one of the coffee morning type events held at Community House in Peacehaven. The question is usually asked with a cheeky smile by one of the elder attendees, sporting a cup of coffee and a plate of biscuits. My two answers of choice? 1) “That’s why I’m here, you’re the one I’ve been looking for” and 2) “I’m arresting you for possession of an offensive biscuit, under the Prohibited Sweets & Pastries Act 2012, subsection jammie dodgers”. Silliness done and dusted, we can then move on to the more pressing issues of what’s been happening in town.
Moving back to matters slightly more relevant to the title of this blog, one question often asked is “Why do some of you wear helmets and others flat caps?” Well, there is a sensible answer to this and I’ll cover it from the Neighbourhood Policing aspect.
Basically, as a police constable, I always wear my custodian (helmet) when on foot patrol or static point duties such as scene guards. My flat cap is used when on patrol in a police car (all be it not worn when actually in the car). It’s fair to say that my flat cap doesn’t get much use, given my preference for foot patrols. Those of us who conduct cycle patrols have a police cycle helmet too (as well as the appropriate hi vis clothing). I’m not sure that I could put up with wearing a custodian whilst cycling, as per the undoctored part of the title image! Not being one to boast, but when it comes to sheer volume of hats in Peacehaven, I win. Yes indeed, I also have a police motorcycle helmet too as I am trained to ride our district off road motorbikes.
With regards to my colleagues, PCSOs Chris and Ivan wear a flat cap (with a blue/white chequered band & PCSO badge) as part of their uniform for all duties. PCSO Juls Perrin wears the bowler equivalent.
So, in conclusion. A blog about hats? Really? Well, it may perhaps seem a little frivolous to write about such things. However, police uniform is all about presence and protection, hats included. Our custodian helmets make us particularly identifiable in public, so you know who you’re talking to and we stand out in a crowd…and yes, the criminals may see us from a distance too, but hey, we’ll get them anyway!
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Thursday 9 August 21:21
I’m really pleased to have been given the opportunity to take part in the Sussex Police People project. I followed the ‘first wave’ with great interest and hats off to all those involved.
Having been to a few pre ‘second wave’ meetings it’s great to see that, once again, the mixture of roles and people involved remains broad. This means that we’ll get to read about a wide range of policing skills, experiences and of course characters. I say ‘we’ as there are many aspects of policing that I do not have day to day direct contact with, so I’ll be reading and picking up new things too.
Topically, I chose to head this opening blog with the cover of Ladybird’s ‘People at Work’ The Policeman (please excuse the fact that the book is from the dark ages hence ‘Policeman’ instead of ‘police officer’). I say topically, because it forms part of my earliest memories of wanting to be a police officer (mind you, I also recall wanting to be a robot!). Also, it shows a ‘Bobby on the beat’, reflecting a key part of my role as a Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) officer. Being ‘out on the beat’ is something that I’ll no doubt come back to during the course of my blogs.
Also, again referring to the pictured PC on the ‘not so mobile’ phone, the use of technology in policing has long been present. I’ve been a police officer for just over four years now and it is very apparent to me that we are on the brink of a mobile policing revolution (or evolution if you prefer). My colleagues and I have been tweeting on the beat for some time now, giving you regular updates about our work and enhancing our community engagement. Recently I have been involved in the trials of tablet computers (Blackberry PlayBooks in this case) that give us access to police systems whilst out on patrol.
It’s early days and I don’t yet have everything on the tablet, but the benefits are already shining through. This fantastic piece of kit is letting me spend more time out on patrol, reducing paperwork AND I get to sit in a café in the Meridian Centre in Peacehaven talking to you, whilst also updating my work! It really is allowing me (and PCSO Juls Perrin, who’s also taking part in the trials) to remain in the heart of the community.
Over the coming weeks I’ll continue to update/engage on Twitter and blog (where 140 characters just doesn’t do a topic justice). I also look forward to trying out some of the photo, video and audio features available to me. Peacehaven residents will probably notice when I start trying these out (watch out for me chasing PC Dave Tourell down the road waving a video enabled phone at him). Camera shy PCSO Perrin had better watch out too!
Please let me know if you have any particular questions or even special requests for subjects to cover. I will do my best to answer or at least point you in the right direction. Neighbourhood policing is all about engaging with communities and partner agencies. I hope to reflect this whilst taking part in Sussex Police People.
If you happen to be passing through the Peacehaven area and see me out on patrol then please stop and say hello.
And now for the advert…
Follow Peacehaven, Telscombe and East Saltdean NPT on Twitter:
@Peacehaven_Pol (PCSO Juls Perrin)
Online and on foot in your community! (cheesy, but true)