You only regret the things you don’t do

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:

  1. Bureaucracy
  2. 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.

twitter – @DC_ARVSgt

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1 thought on “You only regret the things you don’t do

  1. As my title suggests I have been retired for ten years. People often ask me if I miss the job and I have to say in all honesty I don’t. If they ask would I recommend it to anyone today I have to say that I couldn’t.
    What do I think has got worse? When I was in the Met we didn’t have bars attached to stations but there were a few locals you could drink in after hours. All illegal at the time but no one took the mickey too much. There were regular outings and sports events that provided an invisible glue that kept us all pulling in roughly the same direction.
    When did it change? I don’t really know but police sport was being steadily killed by the mid 90’s. Regular ‘official’ do’s and outings stopped, probably because people were living further and further from work.and were scattered to the four corners.
    Society changed rapidly but the politicians didn’t seem to realise this and expected things to continue much as they had..
    Austerity has meant much of the work that would be performed by the NHS and local authorities isn’t done and as a result police get more and more involved in problems that are not within their remit. It’s handy for the others because the police are usually the ones left holding the baby (as it were).
    I don’t think it will get better. Society is divided and there has been a nasty athmosphere since the Brexit vote. I genuinely believe that at some point in the not too distant future policing will fail in some areas as excessive demands and insufficient resources lead to a complete breakdown. A repeat of 2011 would, in my opinion, be virtually impossible to resolve. Sustained and coordinated terrorist attacks would stretch the service beyond breaking point.
    As you say, we have lost experience, I shudder to think what horrors await when an inexperienced D/Supt and team investigate a crime in progress with an associated risk to life. I’m sorry to say this but I feel that only a massive failure of policing with a detailed enquiry will do to dig us out of PMTM’s mess.


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