Friday 1 March 08:10
A Special Constable's Farewell to Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett
A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Extended Police Family Board. This meeting, chaired by a Chief Superintendent, convened quarterly to discuss volunteers, special constables and cadets. I knew that it was attended by a member of the Sussex Police Authority and higher ranking officers and staff, and there I was, a special, nervously twiddling my thumbs wondering whether I had the ability to hold my own.
My presence was on the initiative of Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett, who wanted the specials to be represented by one. My name was put forward and agreed and as I am also a cadet leader I was able to offer a view on that as well.
From the beginning, Mr Bartlett made me feel welcome, and that my opinion was as valued as anybody else’s. At the time, the issue of cadets going on observer attachments with regulars was being discussed, and on the verge of being rejected. I asked Mr Bartlett for the opportunity to write a strategy and framework. To my surprise, he agreed.
From what I was later to learn about him, I should not have been so. He has attended many attestations of new special constables, annual cadet parades, and volunteer and specials awards ceremonies. I was always bumping into him at these ocassions, or around HQ and he always said hello and had a chat with me. As Divisional Commander of Brighton & Hove, he also avidly supported the cadets there, and went to their awards evening. He has lent his time to the extended police family where he can, and been committed to the continuous improvement of the opportunities for volunteers, specials and cadets.
On a personal level, the impact of his decision to allow me to write what would eventually be called the Volunteer Cadet Observer Scheme (VCOS) was very significant because now, I had to write the thing! And it had to be well considered and credible. But I knew at the back of my mind that if I put the time and effort in that it needed, he would read and consider it. When after a few months (and a lot of consultation with others) I was finally able to submit the document, I knew that it wasn’t disappearing into cyber obscurity. For those who follow my blogs and twitter, you will know that the Board (the members of which are also very supportive of all volunteers) approved VCOS.
Last year, I was presented with an award for my contribution to the extended police family. Afterwards, whilst standing there with Mummy Lampert, Mr Bartlett came over to speak with us. He praised the quality of the report that I submitted. As flattering as this was to hear, I made a point of saying that no matter how well written a piece of work is, if nobody is willing to read it, it doesn’t matter. That paper would not have made it to the Board for consideration had not supported the concept as I had set it out. But that’s the type of person he is – one who is prepared to listen to his colleagues of all ranks. That is very inspiring, and something that I will always live by: that everyone has something to offer, and it is important to give people a chance to put forward their ideas and opinions no matter what their rank or experience.
With Mr Bartlett’s retirement from the Police, my time has come to an end on the EPF Board as well. But I am delighted to have worked for him and with him. He will be greatly missed.
Sir – thank you for your interest and support of the Extended Police Family, to which you have undoubtedly made an overwhelming contribution, leaving such a positive impact and legacy in so many ways. I wish I could list them all here. I would like to thank you too for your encouragement, support and belief in me as a person and special constable. You have left a lasting impression and one that I shall always be inspired by. I wish you the very best for the future.
Friday 15 February 17:14
My latest video blog on leadership featuring some colleagues from Sussex Police!
Saturday 9 February 22:52
Hastings & Rother Senior Cadet Sam Maclean - Guest Blog
My name is Sam Maclean and I am the senior cadet at the Hastings & Rother VCC. I have been serving with the unit for three and a half years. I want to talk about VCOS which is the Volunteer Cadet Observer Scheme. VCOS gives the cadets the opportunity to see frontline policing by going out with full time police officers in a controlled way.
The Scheme was piloted inHastingsand I was one of the first cadets inSussexto go out on it. I went out as much as I could and always enjoyed it. When it was approved for all cadets I was really glad that me and the other cadets inHastingshad helped get this approved as it was something that our Cadet Coordinator SC Natascha Lampert-Montier had written with support from lots of other people. As a unit we are really grateful to everyone who had a part in making this possible.
For VCOS you have to be sixteen and have served in the unit for at least a year. You then apply to the leaders and meet withHastingscadet liaison sergeant, PS Yates, and our parents. The sergeant will then sign us off to go out.
I have learnt so much about policing since I started the scheme and would recommend it to any cadet. I didn’t fully realise before just how much variety there is. You can be at a report of some youths climbing on a school roof one minute to the call of some people seemingly stranded on the beach the next (they were both ok).
Today, I was due to go out with NPT accompanying PS Yates (who covers central Hastings) and SC Lampert-Montier but the sergeant was called away to assist on something that was not suitable for me to attend. So I spent a couple of hours with NPT Officers PC Archer and PC Heneke. We did some patrol, and attended a few calls. When PS Yates came back, I crewed with him and SC Lampert-Montier on some hi-vis vehicle patrol but by then it had started raining and things were very quiet. I have learnt that policing can be like that though - some days will be really busy and others are calmer. But I enjoyed it and think that it is good to see just how different shifts can vary. I am really looking forward to the next VCOS opportunity.
Thursday 7 February 17:13
A Little Trip to HQ
It’s been a busy morning for me. Today I went to HQ for a seminar on social media. It was like a who’s who of the Sussex Police twitterati. So many people that I follow were there, and it was nice to finally say hello to @Peacehaven_PC and @Peacehaven_pol aka PC Jon Attfield and PCSO Juls Perrin (turns out they do exist haha
The seminar itself was excellent and very interesting. We discussed the use of social media and some of the associated laws. The speaker gave us some very useful information on the subject, as well as a wealth of case law. I shall certainly be referring to it for some time to come.
What struck me most about today, however, was the mix of people in attendance. This was not a two-tiered event, i.e. one session for senior officers/managers, one for everyone else. It was an inclusive event attended by people of all ranks. It was a real mixture of people from across the force. I like the openness this arrangement afforded. Everyone being together created a good atmosphere and perpetuated the idea that we are one team, each with our own important and varied roles within it. I am drifting back to the territory of leadership and accessibility, so I won’t expand too much on this here as I am working on that blog at the moment.
Talking of which, I’m meeting with Supt. Nelson next week to talk about leadership, and (hopefully) get him on film as part of my vlog. And on that point, officers at Hastings and surrounding area beware – I am out and about with my camera!
If you have any questions about my roles or if there is anything or anyone particular you would like me to blog or vlog about relating to police business then please do get in touch via twitter @tashlampert. I look forward to hearing from you.
Take care all,
Monday 4 February 02:03
What is Good Leadership?
Apologies for the blog silence of late! I am currently working on a piece (and vlog) about leadership. I am very interested in this subject matter, being a leader and developing young people to be as well. I have been very fortunate to be led by some extraordinary people at Sussex Police.
My experience has been one of accessibility. I can remember on one of my first Specials training weekends DCC Giles York came over and chatted with all of us; at my attestation ACC Robin Merrett stayed afterwards to speak with the new recruits and their families (he’s always supportive and engaging at many specials and cadets events); I’ve been to several events where Chief Superintendents Graham Bartlett (Chair of the Extended Police Family Board/Brighton Divisonal Commander) and Robin Smith (East Sussex Divisional Commander) have been, and I know that they attend cadet parades and awards ceremonies when they can, as do the other Divisional and District Commanders. I could go on, but my point is that our senior leaders are accessible, and actively encourage us to engage with them. I think they would be mortified if any of us felt they were unapproachable.
There is something to be said for this kind of visible leadership. I think it is very good for morale. I’ve been out on duty and seen officers from Chief Inspector rank down patrolling with the rest of us. I believe Superintendent Simon Nelson is often out and about as well! I find it inspiring.
Anyway, those are my thoughts for now. Stay tuned for the ‘proper’ blog and video, which is being contributed to by lots of people (some you may know from Twitter). In the meantime, be safe, be happy and take care.
Tuesday 11 December 07:35
Smells Like Team Spirit
On Saturday 8th December 2012, the Hastings & Rother Cadets once again took on the Hastings NPT in a friendly football match. Their previous encounter back in July ended with them losing by a modest margin of 15-3. This time it was a little different, with NPT only walking away with a victory of 7-4. But then, the cadets that the coppers faced on Saturday were a very different team than previously. This time the cadets had practised, and we also had a new intake about a month ago!
When the cadets first came up with the idea of challenging NPT earlier in the year, it was because they wanted to integrate themselves with their professional colleagues outside of the work environment and also put together a team strengthening event for everyone; and what better way than through sport?
As we saw with the Olympics and Paralympics this summer, sport truly does unite us. I’m sure, like me, many of you were glued to the television not wanting to miss a moment of what truly was a golden summer for Great Britain in terms of medal haul, but also the world. Something that particularly pleased me was that each team had at least one female representing them, and that there was a breadth of representation from across the world at the Paralympics. I found it hugely inspirational.
In our own little way, the two teams put forward by the cadets and NPT were a reflection of this spirit. Nobody was turned away because of gender or ability – if you wanted to be part of the team then you were welcome to play (although once on the pitch things got serious!). Both teams on Saturday had women playing (with PC Heneke taking a penalty for NPT and scoring!), and you can’t accuse either side of being full of Rooney’s and Ibrahimovic’s. But that wasn’t the point! Did it really matter who won? (Ok, yes it mattered – it mattered a LOT!) Or is what’s important that before both the matches there was a buzz of excitement and friendly banter?
The cadet Sergeant made it quite clear that he was going to be playing for the ‘winning’ NPT side, and the cadets jokingly said that was fine, they didn’t want him hindering them…One of the PCSOs, publicly declared that NPT would win 22-2 even repeating this over and over again to his wife on the day of the match…team tactics were drawn on whiteboards…there was posturing galore. Oh, you name it! It all went on. But do you know what the best bit was? Everyone was smiling, laughing and joking.
The main joke was on NPT though who had invited the cadets to play again, expecting it to be another landslide victory. The fact that it wasn’t made it all the better! The cadets undertook a proper warm up, and can still walk. NPT didn’t and now ache. Everybody got nice and muddy – there was a lot of rolling on the grass and dramatic grabbing of shins by a certain member of NPT who is now in the running for best actor at next year’s Oscars. When the final whistle blew all I heard was ‘good game’ and ‘let’s do this again soon’ as everybody shook hands and parted as friends.
The buzz hasn’t gone away. I was talking about the match with my colleagues again today. It has drawn everyone together, with the joke being that all future applicants to either the cadets or NPT will be assessed on their football skills! I was even told that NPT clubbed together for their own strip so that this tradition can continue, and expand to include everyone in the station at a five aside tournament.
The only constant is change, but there is nothing to fear that cannot be faced when you find something that binds us together, even if it’s just a little football match every now and then; something that the combined cadet and NPT team have built together: our present and our future.
Sunday 4 November 18:14
I interview Inspector Lee Lyons - Duty Inspector for East Sussex and Public Order Inspector. Inspector Lyons discusses his roles within Sussex Police and gives us an insight into the man behind the pips! Follow Inspector Lyons on Twitter: twitter.com/Insp_Lyons
Thanks for watching! Tash
Sunday 4 November 17:13
I interview Sussex Police’s PCSO James Armstrong. Really enjoyed filming this with James and we had a good giggle! Parts of which will be included in my gag reel (your Christmas present from me!)
Sunday 4 November 16:32
Last night I attended the Battle Bonfire event. I was crewed with PC Kemp in prison van 2, and was stationed up by the Fire Station. To be fair, it wasn’t a difficult duty - me and Jason were toastie warm and had a wonderful view of the procession as it made its way up and down the High Street.
I hasten to add that we did get out of the van and spent our time in the bitterly cold air, but nonetheless compared to most other officers out there last night we got a pretty good deal. The event was really well attended and there were lots of people enjoying themselves, and the fireworks at the end were brilliant!
Such events do take a lot of police resources. Most of these consist of our regular police or PCSO colleagues. However, the contribution of the Special Constabulary at these events to provide additional support cannot be overlooked. Last night alone, five specials supported event from provided 2 prison vans, foot patrol and support to the bronze commander.
This is something that is replicated throught the force, and many specials will be supporting Op Peel (which is the big bonfire celebration in Lewes). Already in my area we have had the Hastings and Staplecross bonfires and next week the Rye celebration is coming up. I know that specials will be supporting that as well.
Please look out for my two interviews with other officers who attended last night - PCSO James Armstrong, and Inspector Lee Lyons (who was Bronze commander of the event).
Oh and if you haven’t already checked out James’ blog yet please do here http://www.sussex.police.uk/about-us/sussex-police-people/james-armstrong/ and he has a Facebook page with all the photos from the events he has attended : http://www.facebook.com/BattlePoliceUK You’ll find lots of interesting information and photographs from the police response to these fantastic community events.
Friday 12 October 21:30
Hastings & Rother VCC Senior Cadet Sam gets his revenge by interviewing me!
Note the amazing overuse of the word ‘FANTASTIC’!
We hope you enjoy - apologies for the background noise at times.
Saturday 6 October 22:55
I am delighted to introduce you to Hastings & Rother VCC Senior Cadet Sam. Here he is talking about his experience as a cadet before answering some fun things at the end. We really hope you enjoy it!
Apologies for the background noise at times.
Wednesday 19 September 08:29
Lovely to hear about the work of young people in our county! What's the lower age limit for cadets? Thinking of passing info to the daughter of a friend. Cheers!
Hello - it’s 14-18 years, but they can apply from aged 13 1/2. Best way is through the sussex police website to find her local unit: http://www.sussex.police.uk/about-us/work-with-us/cadets/
Wednesday 12 September 17:50
A Word on Cadets
There are about 180 young people across Sussex who volunteer as Police Cadets. I know 28 of them as the Hastings & Rother Volunteer Cadet Corps, of which I am one of five leaders. These magnificent cadets come to the station every week for training, learning a variety of skills from law to communication and practical application, as well as supporting the Hastings and Rother NPTs with various tasks, often in addition to the weekly training. If you have been to any events in the Hastings & Rother area you may have seen them out and about. All events they go to are risk assessed as being appropriate, such as fetes and events, marshalling activities and leaflet drops.
Last year, Sussex Police (along with many other forces) responded to the London riots. I can recall at the time that some of the reports focused on young people as being some of the main antagonists. Sadly, there then did not seem to be much in the way of coverage showing those who helped in the clear up afterwards. Nor was there any visibility of the part our own cadets played. Whilst obviously not deployed to London, they did come in to assist with the catering for our local officers. This small but supportive act made a real difference, and formed part of the response. It also demonstrated how cadets can be part of the force and relevant to day to day business.
But this isn’t all they do. I am very proud to share with you that at the past two Divisional Awards ceremonies, cadets have been present to receive honours. (In the case of our new Senior Cadet, he has picked up three, but that’s because he’s greedy!). In the words of my sergeant, Simon Yates, these aren’t simply handed out because they are cadets. Rather, they are awarded in spite of them being cadets, and for acts that any officer would be proud of.
For example, two cadets were honoured for saving a woman’s life. She was in health difficulties, and on seeing the cadets in their hi-vis jackets she called upon these members of Sussex Police for help, expecting the level of service our public demands of us. She didn’t know they were cadets, she just saw the uniform. Furthermore, a sub-team of cadets were recognised for their part in tackling a community project looking at how young people use the pavements (bikes, skateboards etc). What was brilliant about this was the perception of the local PCSO who commissioned their input having identified an opportunity for young people in the community to engage with young people in the Force. After all, as Sir Robert Peel said, ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’. Sussex Police recognises that this sentiment extends to its young ambassadors too.
Young people do seem to get a bad press at times. As adults, we can sometimes write them off and say “oh but they are not old enough…” But having worked with the cadets for a couple of years now, I have found that if you give them the opportunity to lead or hand over some responsibility, they just run with it to great effect. In 2011, the Red Arrows came to Rye, and to celebrate the town held a lovely event, including a parade of war time vehicles, at Strand Quay. The cadets had been invited to assist the NPT in meeting the public and assisting with missing persons. By lunchtime, the six of them had already interacted a lot with the public, returned a lost dog and had their photo taken ‘arresting’ Cobra from Gladiators!
I was on patrol with two cadets in a different part of the town when a separate crew called up to say they had been approached by a lady who could not find her husband. They were instructed to get initial details and ‘hold the fort’ until I got there. When I did, not only were they obtaining the appropriate information that I would need to relay to the other officers and PCSOs in the area, but were administering first rate care to the very distressed lady herself.
Within minutes, the cadets had formulated a strategy to find the missing gentleman, and coordinated by the most highly ranked cadet they put this into action, circulating a description of the missing man, and breaking Rye up into sections for searches. The results of these were then communicated via their radio network. The sergeant on duty said afterwards that the link back in with her team by the cadets was excellent - they would liaise with officers as they met them and update their progress. Whilst I was ensuring the appropriate updates were made to control, the third cadet crew walked towards where the lady was seated. I can remember the sergeant exclaiming “They’ve only gone and found him!”, and sure enough along came the cadets with the now located man, and reunited him with his very distressed wife!
Turns out, that crew had been on their refs break and on hearing that this vulnerable gentleman had gone missing chose to search the quieter parts of Rye (using knowledge gained that morning from a PCSO who took us on a tour of the town). They figured (correctly) that the focus of the search would initially be centred on Strand Quay. Instead they chose to look elsewhere, on instinct, which proved correct.
But it didn’t stop there. The couple were visitors to Rye and following the incident just wanted to return to their hotel. Two of the cadets offered to escort them to the train station and did not return until they had seen them safely into a taxi.
What was so impressive about this was that this group of young people devised and implemented their own strategy to search for the missing male. They worked as a team, and it was them who found the man. That is not to say that without them the officers wouldn’t have, but certainly on that occasion the cadets proved themselves capable of forming part of a planned police response, when appropriate.
It is this kind of willingness by the Force to support their young volunteers that is so inspiring. Gone are the days when cadets were paid with direct entry as a Constable. Now, there is no advantage in having been a cadet pre-recruitment. On application to be a regular or special, the playing field is level with someone who has not been a cadet. So why be one?
It’s certainly not the drill. Every week, Cadet Leader Greg has them on parade, and for about half an hour several commands, sure to still strike fear into the hearts of any former cadets, or officers who trained at Ashford and the like, can be heard:
Parade will retire, about turn!
In close order, right dress!
By the left, quick march!
They’re improving greatly though, and hold their own at Armed Forces and Remembrance Parades.
They are also trying to become ‘part of the furniture’ at the Station. By that, they want to be considered in events and activities to a greater degree to gain experience that, should they be successful in recruitment, can be used then. Likewise, those who don’t want to pursue a career in the Police can take these life skills and apply them anywhere. To aid the integration, they recently challenged Hastings NPT to a football match (they lost 13-3, but raised £75 for a local Hospice), and will soon be observing patrols with regular officers as part of Sussex’s Volunteer Cadet Observer Scheme (something that was devised and piloted in Hastings). Currently, they have split into sub-teams, looking at social media (check them out @Hastings_cadets), internal communications, and community liaison. They are not seeking to replace any existing functions, but to be included with or supplement them. It’s a bold move, but they are a tenacious unit, and live up to their motto of ‘exemplo ducemus’ – by example we lead.
And on that note, it’s time for me to prepare for this evening’s training session, so cadets, to your duties, dismissed!
Thursday 16 August 14:36
Why Do I Do?
It was during the tenth hour of foot patrol at the May Day celebrations in Hastings this year that I was asked for the umpteenth time that day whether I was mad. Why wasn’t I out with my family, enjoying the sunshine on that Bank Holiday Monday? Instead, I was standing on point in George Street with a green nose having unsuccessfully dodged the face-painters wielding daubing sponges from the Jack in the Green parade, dealt with at least three drunk people, and conducted miles of hi-vis foot patrol. But none of that bothered me; I just knew my feet ached!
It is a question often asked of Specials: why do we do it? For some, it is difficult to comprehend why anybody would give up their spare time to police. Often it’s not even the ‘exciting’ stuff that we turn out for. If you go to any community police event, I’ll wager some of the officers you see on patrol will be Specials because we enjoy the atmosphere.
Some people play golf or football. Others take up a martial art. Some 300 people across Sussex ‘special’. But why? For me, being a Special is a way to make a difference to my community, and develop and grow as an individual. There is a lot of teamwork, camaraderie and sense of achievement that comes with it. This can be measured in several ways, from making an arrest, reuniting a child separated from a parent in a crowd, or simply having a nice chat with a member of the public. I remember being out with the cadets at a fete in Alexandra Park when a French family paused to tell me how friendly we all were, and how lovely it was to see so many of us. I didn’t get the impression that they have neighbourhood police in France, so I was delighted that their experience of it had been so positive.
As a Special, with full police powers, we are expected to perform many of the same duties as a regular officer. That means at some point we will have to deal with confrontation. We are all trained in personal safety and conflict management, but nonetheless our families may still have concerns. I see it like this, however: you are more likely to come home with bruises and a split lip participating in a contact sport than you are following a duty. Some television documentaries only focus on dealing with disorder, but that is only one aspect of policing. Generally, the public are congenial, like interacting with us, or look to us for help. Most people I have ever had cause to arrest have been perfectly civil.
Of course, that is not always the case. I once had some of my hair pulled out by somebody I was trying to arrest. There were lots of factors which I won’t go into but as my colleague and I worked to bring the incident to a resolution, we knew that we needed extra help.
I was then to learn just how supportive all officers are. My colleague requested back up, which arrived within minutes. After the situation was managed successfully and safely for everyone, I had time to reflect. As I stood there, my hair half perfect/half Wurzel Gummage, looking at all the police vehicles and officers who had come to assist, it started to all make sense. When it came to the paperwork, I was sat down with a cup of tea and words of encouragement from the Section. I was never made to feel that it had happened because I was ‘only’ a Special who had mishandled the situation. That simply was not the case. It was made very clear to me that sometimes - thankfully not that often - these things happen. That I was there in the first place, standing beside them and prepared to act when necessary was what counted, a sentiment shared by many about Specials. On a personal note, as someone whose hair is a big part of their identity, I will forever be grateful to the wonderful Jane who gently picked up all the loose strands from my shoulders so that I didn’t have to see them.
It was this kindness that I spoke of to reassure mum that everything was all right. I know she was upset (after all I am her precious daughter and had been hurt) but she never ceased to support my continuing. In some ways, I think she and the rest of Team Lampert were comforted because I had been so well supported when it had happened and not left to deal with it alone. Similarly, it is a big ask of our families and friends to understand and accept our choice to serve the public in this voluntary capacity, not least because of the impact it has on our home life, but also because of the potential challenges we face. Without that support, it simply would not be possible.
Of course there was no question of my not carrying on as a Special. Although this was the most significant incident I had dealt with at the time, I had learned so much about myself too. It confirmed what I believed I was capable of – keeping my head (if not my hair) when things escalated, not over-reacting, and staying focussed on the task at hand. I also realised that I was part of something bigger. Irrespective of my being a volunteer, I was a member of Sussex Police and my colleagues were there for me, as I was for them. I understood for the first time what the Force meant by saying that Specials are part of the Extended Police Family.
And it is this sense of belonging, of being part of Team Sussex that drives Specials to come on duty week on week. We want to help, to contribute, to make a difference. Green nose n’ all.
Wednesday 8 August 13:42
The Girl with the Hair and Makeup
It was Mummy Lampert’s dearest wish, on the occasion of my birth, that if I became nothing else I would at the very least be Sherlockian.
Mr Holmes had been a constant at Mummy Lampert’s side during all her previous adventures and so faithful a companion had he been that she wanted me to benefit also. Her battered copy of the Complete Short Stories, every well thumbed page now held together with an elastic band, has been by her bedside for as long as I can remember. But I could never get into it. Like Dickens, I could watch it on television, but to read - I had neither the patience nor the inclination.
I was a devout Poiroist. The fine Belgian sleuth and his ‘little grey cells’ were much more my thing. Mummy Lampert, though disappointed, was supportive, buying me the novels and recording adaptations off the telly. But she was determined that I not be narrow minded - no, no. The psychology of the crime was not the only way, she said. She introduced me to all the great detectives: Columbo, Jane Marple, Morse, Dr Sloan, Ironside, Quincy…Jessica Fletcher. I got carried away in the mysteries. They intrigued me, challenged me, and made me think…I wanted to be just like them.
But who was I kidding? I was the girl with the hair and makeup. An early foray into amateur dramatics, tap dancing and later classical singing (I went to Junior Guildhall dah-ling) had willingly dragged me into always colouring and styling my hair, and plastering on the make up. For some years I was as well made up as a pantomime dame, but I soon got the hang of it. By the time I became a legal secretary, I was in full on business mode, clacking around in my metal tipped heels and suits.
I had toyed with the idea of being a detective, having been inspired by the fictional ones, but to have DC in front of your name, you had to be PC first. And that meant uniform. Everything about me seemed wholly incompatible with that. All those chases, murders and explosions (if the TV was to be believed), well…how could I ever keep up with that?
But then a few things happened. First came my job as a legal secretary which led me to meet the post clerk at the time, a delightful young lady, ST. When we first met in 2003, ST was a police cadet with aspirations of becoming a Police Constable. She seemed so delicate, quite a few inches shorter than me, and yet she was so confident, composed and brave. She would tell me stories of her duties as a cadet, and later when she became a special I would hear all about patrols - and how it wasn’t all confrontation. A lot of the time, she said, people liked seeing and talking with a police officer. She encouraged my younger brother to join up as a cadet (which he did - now a Special Constable himself, as well as being Police Staff and a Cadet Leader), and even suggested that I become a Special because she thought I’d ‘enjoy it and be good at it’, insisting that any concerns I had were misplaced.
A couple of years later, I ended up working as a management secretary to the Head of IS at Sussex Police. Being in and around policing started to intrigue me. I met such a diverse group of people, from all backgrounds, as police officers, staff, and volunteers. What struck me was not what their differences were but what bound them: a desire to help others and serve the public.
That’s what I wanted to do! I’d toyed with law (didn’t like the separation from the investigation and victims), and here I was again back to policing. But I wanted to be a detective, didn’t I?
By now, I must admit, I had discovered the BBC Radio 4 series of Sherlock Holmes radio plays (check them out they’re brilliant!). I say ‘discovered’, I had actually bought the entire canon for Mummy Lampert and her playing them on a loop had got me (finally you may say) hooked. All it took was the line “To Sherlock Holmes she would always be the woman…” and that was it. Bye bye, Poirot! I wanted to be like Holmes. I liked his methodology, his thinking processes, and his total and utter belief in himself and his abilities; but I also loved his compassion, towards Watson, towards his clients, and his manner of dealing with the most villainous of villains.
But real life wasn’t like that, I knew that. I had been very fortunate to hear all the stories from ST, my brother, and now other officers from across the Force. I must thank Chief Superintendent Ross Hollister (now retired) who arranged for me to spend a day at Brighton Custody Centre. It was then that I started to see the real face of policing. Yes, these people were in custody on suspicion of committing criminal acts, but the professional attitude and service of the officers was an eye-opener. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I certainly was inspired by the experience. I’m capable of this compassion, I thought. I could do this…
My brother having been a cadet for some time by then, and my other family and friends were supportive of my application to be a Special Constable. We all knew that it would have an impact on our lives, not least because I may not be off duty on time, or I would be policing at events where normally we would go as spectators. But they were behind me all the way, and I don’t think I’d have got through the recruitment process without them.
Suddenly, it was 12th September 2008: my first training day. Back then, we were trained in cohorts of about 18, and stayed at the Headquarters in Lewes. Many of the specials I trained with are still serving, which is excellent. We had a brilliant time on the course, and it was funny to see how our perceptions changed as we went along. For me, the moment of truth came when I first tried on my uniform. It was about weekend three, and we had all been given a box containing our kit. I stood in my room and put it all on. “What are you doing?” I thought to myself. “You can’t do this…” It looked official. I realised that by wearing the uniform people would look to me for help! What if I couldn’t? What if I let them down? It was the only time I have ever had serious doubts. Fortunately, something in me said “Yes! You CAN do it!”
Our attestation took place on 6th December 2008, following eight weekends of basic training. This was the day I was to receive my police powers. I stood in the changing room at Slaugham Manor, checking that my hair was in place, and that I didn’t look untidy. The Assistant Chief Constable Robin Merrett was going to be there, and we were being attested by a Magistrate, Carole Shaves JP MBE.
I had been studying the attestation for over a week. I wanted to learn it, to be sure that I knew what it meant, and that I was ready - truly ready in myself - to say it, to make that declaration.
I can remember the moment my name was called, and there in this beautiful room, in the presence of my mum and my brother, representatives from the Police, my colleagues and their families I stood before Mrs Shaves, and looking her in the eye began,
“I, Natascha Lampert-Montier, do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the Office of Constable…”
Shaking, I signed my name, and there I was; a Special Constable, with full police powers and a promise to keep.
Later, as I sat on the edge of my bed proudly cradling my warrant card, I wondered how the girl with the hair and make up had ended up here. I grinned to myself. Maybe Sherlock had something to do with it.
Will I ever be a ‘regular’? Who knows? Nobody could have foreseen I’d end up a Special Constable to start with. But then, as the great man himself said,
‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’
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Saturday 4 August 18:07
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! I am very excited to be part of the Sussex Police People project, and hope that you find my blogs and videos interesting.
I am fortunate to have several roles at Sussex Police, and this has brought me into contact with lots of people from all over the Force. I hope to be able to introduce you to some of them through a series of videoed conversations. We have some truly fascinating people at Sussex Police, and I can’t wait for you to meet them too. I am also working on a short film with the Hastings & Rother VCC’s Senior Cadet about cadets, so watch this space!
My first ‘full’ blog will be up soon, along with an interview with a Special Constable who has been serving some 30 years.
See you soon!