Firstly, you have to be a cop. So if you aren’t but think you fancy driving fast cars and pointing guns at bad people, it’s not for you. Yes we do that, but firstly we are cops, and you have to be a good cop too. You have to be motivated and know what you are doing, because most of the time you will be dealing with incidents from fatal road traffic collisions to armed incidents without any initial support. If you want to be an ARV officer (Armed Response Vehicle) but are not interested in policing, then we aren’t interested in you either.
It was warm which was always a bonus, one less thing to worry about at 3 o’clock on this dark and very still morning. The single car involved was completely unrecognizable, it was dry and only a slight breeze caressed the branches of the trees around my head. I had travelled at speed for over an hour to get here. I knew it was too late to save life, but any delay meant even longer to open the road, but more importantly, I needed to get there to ensure no vital evidence or witnesses were lost. I had learned over the years there was a thin line between patronising skilled and experienced officers and ensuring they had done things correctly. Continue reading What a job!
I am writing this message to round up the year as far as I see it on Twitter. As a police officer of 29 years service it’s natural to recoil against injustice which is why I have found Twitter to be such a useful platform and it may explain the reason for some of the subjects I have tackled this year. But I have needed colleagues and now good friends to help me along the way. I’ve had to dodge a few bullets along the way, I mean the two misconducts when I may have stepped over the line just a little, but without the incredible Force that I work in, I would have thrown it all away or indeed have my account closed by a less forward thinking Force. Yes, it is the fault of the Devon and Cornwall Police that I am still here!
I am fortunate to work in one of the most privileged jobs anyone can have. I am permitted into the most private lives of many. I walk into their lounges and I see the mess their lives are in. I see their absolute despair, and I can see the long road some will have to take to get out of their situation. They are a victim of abuse and bullying and unless the police help them out in the way of safeguarding plans, their lives will remain just as miserable for a long time to come. I see their most intimate grief across their faces, and when they look into my eyes, I know they are looking for comfort, so what I do or say next is so important. And yes, I pass the ‘job’ on to those that are so much better at it than me, to see it through. That’s the policing I am so proud of in my Force and I know carries on in every other Force in this Country.
Turning up on a dark wet night and peering into the depths of a mangled car that has rolled because the young driver got caught up in the moment, looking at the rain glistening off their dead faces is another reason I work so much with Learn2Live, a road safety campaign that gets into the hearts of young people, makes them realise it could happen to them and teaches them to take charge of their and their friends vulnerable lives, that’s why.
… and speaking to the frustrated parents doing their best with a son or daughter determined to end their own lives because of the torment they have in their heads. Speaking to those young people and hearing their desperation and seeing the pain on their faces is the drive to want to do something about it. The resignation they will succeed in killing themselves eventually is frightening. The lack of help available to them from the mental health agencies who do their very best with the minuscule budgets available to them is just so frustrating, and hearing the politicians spouting utter trash is nauseating to me. The guilt of having no answers but vain optimistic promises to the young man who dropped his beer bottle off the motorway bridge before looking at me in the eyes and dropping off himself… that’s why I tweet so much on mental health.
Speaking to officers all over the country and talking face to face with tired officers hell bent on doing their best encourages me we still have hope, but it’s difficult not to take it personally when someone throws a wand of accusation against their integrity. Yes we have to be accountable but that’s mistaken for not being trusted. Diane Abbot and David Lammy are MP’s who lambaste the Met officers in particular, accusing them of the most ridiculous actions when those same officers are plugging the open wounds of those same MP’s young constituents, the victims of gang knife crime. The frustration I feel for those officers who have to sit and take this complete drivel is almost unbearable and so, so unjust. Too much listening to the wrong people for too long. They now have to start listening to those on the streets with good hearts and the knowledge of how to change things. We are not the oppressive authority to be feared.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Green from what was then the IPCC for a couple of hours last year. A wonderful woman, yes you hear right, but my feeling was that the urge to show the public the police were trustworthy was destroying those same officers when investigations went on for years on end. Officers have killed themselves over the stress. I have seen those officers who’s lives are completely destroyed by investigations often running on the word of another with a considerable criminal record. Their sense of fair play gone forever. Their enthusiasm in the job dead. It should not be forgotten the IOPC have important work to do. We shouldn’t assume all their investigations are inappropriate, they need to be free to complete their work of weeding out the rot in our Police Service, but the proportionality is just so wrong at the moment, it’s the system that needs changing. The humanity of those officers should be considered along with the baying cries of angry relatives.
I am the first to realise the incredible good in people. It’s important to look at our families and remember there are those that work with us who’s father died this year and they no longer have anyone to share their Christmas with. It’s important to remember when we complain about the bad choice available on our TV sets there are those that would just like to have the warmth from out houses, it’s important to remember this, but to not feel guilty about what we have, just remember and do those little changes we can to help where we can.
I would like to take this opportunity to self indulge in some thanks… and as I promise you earlier I have my Force to blame for me still being here, realising the good that was being done but advising on steering away from national headlines in future! So Shaun Sawyer my Chief, and Paul Netherton my Dep along with my very over worked Corporate Comms who said if I carry on like this they would have to take on more staff, I thank you. And to my PSD, yes, my complaints department, they are not the IOPC, they are the Force complaints who I can say have done only but the fairest investigations on complaints against me by those that feel I’ve gone too far. Oh, and my good friend Mike Pannett!
Have a wonderful Christmas all, and Dave Wardell, lets hope Finns Law gets through next year eh?! It better had or they are all #Oafs!
You only regret the things you don’t do, so when I find myself writing critical comments about the police job, I need to be a little careful. Only negative comments soon get ignored, and there are some very positive parts to this adventure.
A twitter follower tweeted to me saying they were starting to regret going through the process of applying for the police because of all the negative comments about working in the service. They came from the NHS so I replied they would be well grounded in the stresses already. I felt bad to be honest, and asked myself, would I join today?
I’m a different person to what I was so it’s difficult to answer that question. Given any wish, it would be a Naval Helicopter pilot for sure. I’ve always admired my colleagues at RNAS Culdrose and was fortunate enough to fly a Merlin Helicopter several years ago!
It was with the brother of my dear friend @DC-PoliceBiker Olly Tayler. His brother is now flying around New Zealand saving lives flying an Air Ambulance. He was determined to keep flying and not be stuck behind a desk, I was determined to drive fast cars and shoot guns, and not be behind a desk. But it’s been tough avoiding it.
There was constant pressure, “Think about your pension”. I resisted, partly because I realised I’d probably blagged it already to the rank of Sergeant, but mainly when looking up the ranks there was absolutely nothing that excited me. I answer my emails and then attend several jobs, any jobs, I do that thing we all wanted to do when joining, yes apart from the sirens and blue lights of course, because as we know that’s the real reason we joined, but I also wanted to do that old fashioned thing of ‘Helping People’. Enormous pleasure is had when blue lighting to a job, getting to the smashed cars and saying to the traumatised driver and passengers, “Don’t worry, it’s metal and plastic, you are okay, that’s the main thing, oh and you can’t park there!” Seeing them smile, seeing their relief, and realising that all is not lost. That help is here.
And I admit that tracking down and arresting a man that has carried out a mock execution on his girlfriend with a shotgun was slightly satisfying. He didn’t like it so much when the guns were on him. His face told me everything. The man was a coward, and he cried.
I get enormous satisfaction from the work I do. I am rarely bored and if I am it’s short lived. Not many careers can boast that. I work hard and do lots of training, pressurized training so I can do more of the fun bits! I love going to work still.
You don’t know what you are going to do for the next 10 minutes for the rest of your life. That is something I love, love and love. You have the privilege of intruding into people’s lives, often brutal lives, often full of despair or even death. No one else will be let in, but there needs to be coping mechanisms, and I fear they are lacking.
Canteens and police bars have gone. Canteen culture was good mainly. It let officers de-stress. Bars meant we talked, and yet now we come to work, then go home travelling many miles. We take our thoughts home and some dread coming back. We use whatsapp to talk to our close teams, but several times for various reasons officers have got into trouble using it. Things that were said in the canteen unfortunately cannot be said on Whatsapp. Whatsapp is our canteen. We do have welfare systems in process, but nothing beats talking to your mates.
The two main issues that prevents an efficient police service and therefore leads to the majority of our negativity are:
- Intervention by others who know little
An example of bureaucracy is when we cut down on paperwork so files would be smaller, straight to the point, and fast, but have the safeguard that if the suspect felt it was not accurate, the fuller file could be done. When one issue goes wrong with one job, then another piece of paper appears to prevent that. There is always a good reason for it to be there, and none put forward why it shouldn’t. There is no feasibility study, no impact assessment, just another form demanded. And we the police have to cover our backs as every death anywhere is usually our fault and could have been prevented in the eyes of many, so for someone coming to a station as a voluntary attender for an interview, we now do 3 risk assessments. One before, one during and one at the end. It’s believed the officer will fill this in and realise there is an issue when they wouldn’t have known otherwise. God knows where the services will come from when there is an issue, but at least we now know. This is balderdash, the officer is not trusted to make their own decision, so further hours and hours of police time are lost finding, filling in and asking repetitive questions on these forms. In any inquest, we can say we filled the form in.
I see a future when we realise that sometimes, when dealing with hundreds of thousands of very aggressive, vulnerable and mentally ill people, it’s likely that one or two may die. And if the police haven’t had a direct input, then individual officers shouldn’t be put under manslaughter charges for 6 years ruining their own lives. I see a future that one day, when a police officer pursues a criminal and the criminal kills themselves or others, that hindsight will not be brought in as a measuring stick. The angry family marching up and down the streets demanding justice, and attention seeking ring leaders demanding ‘cops are sacked’ won’t be listened to. I have to see that future, I need to or all is lost.
I won’t go into the intervention by others too much. It’s well documented. Politicians and the London Mayor contributed in my opinion to lives lost and the loss of the streets or it’s a hell of a coincidence that as soon as stop search was turned into a dirty couple of words suddenly the streets were full of knives, and young people were victims of them. Some influential politicians state we should be paid for our performance, not time served. Take a look at yourselves I say, you would be penniless. We are not in sales, we spend 3 days trying to put a person together after seeing their husband and children killed in a car crash in front of them, does that count as one point? Do I have to give 5 people fixed penalty notices for no seat belt to make up for my lost performance points? Do we now spend hours of time we don’t have evidencing this performance? Leave us alone to do our job, monitoring from a distance by all means, and then this job would be incredible, and not nearly so frustrating.
What gets me through is experience. To realise that when the emails come in, they get done, and I do much of my paperwork on the hand overs or for me on night shift or mornings of early turn when things can be a little quieter. I mentally look at gore as just that. I try not to look at it as people. The soul has already gone. It is no longer a person. I have to look after those that remain living. My brain copes with it that way although my wife may mention my many night terrors that keep her up most nights, I feel I’ve slept the sleep of kings!
My answer would be, join us. We need you, and the community is slowly realising we need you too. The wheel goes around and new ideas come in and go. We accept the improvements and we should be open to change, as policing changes constantly and always has. We need to resist and challenge those ridiculous knee jerk ideas brought in to silence those that shout loudest instead of listening to those that have something to say. You will make a community of the officers you work with. You will have the bosses that look after you and protect you which make your lives 100% better than they could be, you will laugh as well as cry, you will have excitement you could never dream of anywhere else, you will be proud to serve as a police officer. Join us, and get ready for the ride!
Sgt Tangye is a Police Sergeant in the Devon and Cornwall Police. He is an Armed Response Sergeant dual rolled with roads policing.
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I fell into twitter. I had started an account in 2009 to stalk formula one drivers because I realised you get emotion, you saw them in their leisure time, you got to know their thinking, you saw photos, all of which wouldn’t necessarily have been released by their media team. Occasionally some scandal was created by a tweet from a disgruntled driver, how exciting!
There he is, the number plate etched in my mind, and it’s on a white BMW 5 series, 11.30 at night but it’s still too late for me to blend away and spring a trap later on. He’s off up the road, and I’m after him.
After the considerable interest shown on my tweet of driving at 140mph at night on a predominantly empty motorway to a break in progress, I would like to add that we as Advanced Drivers in the Traffic and the Armed Response units will always ensure that if we drive at speed, we do not take unnecessary risks. This may seem like an unnecessary speed to many, however officers undertake numerous extensive driving courses which are refreshed regularly in order to keep them to the highly trained standards required for the role they do.
I myself am a Advanced Police driver, a VIP driver and a Pursuit Tactics advisor. I was a Senior Investigating Officer for serious and fatal road traffic collisions for 15 years. I am a Tactical Pursuit and Containment qualified officer and have over 20 years’ experience of driving on full front line shifts. The geography of our Force area means we have to cover vast distances and this is always judged against the potential risk to the persons calling for police assistance, and the other motorists we pass along with ourselves.
We can make up considerable time on empty motorways between locations. General guidance by our driver training department is to keep top speeds to no more than double the speed limit. I would say however, I do regret the tweet, as it does tend to glamorise speed which is inappropriate and unintentional. I try to mix my tweet content to be fun, humorous, create debate, and to show the public what our every day work is. This means I hopefully have the public with me when I want to discuss the more educational and advisory aspects of policing. I thank those who have supported me on this issue.
PS Harry Tangye
Last night it dawned on me… and then I fell into utter confusion again. I joined the police to… wait for it, yes, ‘to help people’ and I have come to work for the past 27 years on continual shifts and on front line in order to do that, and there is nothing more exciting and satisfying than walking away, looking back and seeing the smile on a previously frightened face. But that seems to be disappearing and without me having noticed it.
Tanja swings the Astra patrol car into the driveway. “Ah great” she remarks, “The family are here. We can get on with this”. She’s careful how she opens the drivers door. She doesn’t want the family to see her hit their car parked next to her. That would not get them off on the right footing. Tanja’s crew mate Jo jumps out of his seat and is already on his way over to a woman in her mid 40’s who’s standing on the front door step. Her 18 year old daughter is looking bored next to her. It’s 9.30 on a cold boxing night, and the first thing Tanja notices is the nervousness on the mother’s face.
A statement I wrote of a relatively common event that caused me a little concern at the time and one that officers have to face every night somewhere in a village / town / city near you. We simply ask this is not treated as an occupational hazard. I have kept exactly as was the statement I read in court but have disguised the names of those involved.