There is no I in team.

This last week has been a busy and testing time for our small force.

We were stretched to our limits and beyond but managed not to snap with the help of our support staff, Special Constables and the pure determination and grit of all involved.

It is in such times like this when we tell our family that we don’t know when we will be home, cancel plans for the next few days and work long hours that we really show who we are and with this strangely comes a massive, tangible and real morale boost.

Officers from different areas and departments simply come together and many different hats are worn so that the right person is in the right place at the best time.

Police are at their best under pressure. We are can do people with a passion to succeed regardless of the demands placed upon us. We don’t always get it right but we always try our best with what we have.

At the time it is tiring and demanding but when the dust begins to settle and the wheels start turning you cannot help but feel pride when being carried along on the wave of excitement that comes with working in such a manner and in a team such as ours.

We choose to do this job. No one makes us and we don’t want sympathy. However, despite the hard work behind the scenes this week we have come under fire from those people who like to criticise and comment on social media and often without knowing the facts.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion and this is an important right but these days opinions often seem to be aired without any facts or first hand knowledge which can be dangerous and upsetting for families of loved ones involved in investigations and can actually cause major complications relating to evidence and court.

Social Media is one of the greatest inventions of our time. It helps us to communicate with each other, find lost friends and family, share information, keep people safe and at times amuse ourselves. However, at times I fear that we have all become a little dismissive of the harm that it can cause if we don’t think before we post or share or comment.

We are all part of a big team in our own little communities and we all have a responsibility to keep ourselves and each other safe but all I ask is that we all take a moment to think about what we do and what we say and if by doing such a thing will it harm another.

We teach our children to do this but we sometimes get so caught up in our busy and often stressful lives that I fear we forget to take a moment, take a breath and think about the possible repercussions of our actions and our behaviour.

“Back to Black” (and white).

I thought it time to reflect on where I have been and where I am going with almost two years completed in my new non uniform role.

Self reflection is something that we all should do in our day to day lives and our work roles. By being able to reflect and look back on things we have done only then can we make ourselves better, stronger and more accountable for our actions and decisions. Only with self reflection can we really improve and change.

I have been on leave for a couple of weeks and managed to almost switch off. However, being a Police Officer means you never manage to completely forget and nor should you.

The out of office goes on the emails but it doesn’t stop you thinking about the cases that you are managing and the victims you are helping. You just have to find the careful balance of caring but not to your own detriment which is often difficult to do and more so on a small Island with a real sense of community.

During the first week of my leave I went back to work. Sometimes things happen that take priority and this was one such occasion. The day had come for sentencing at court for a case that I had managed from the start and of course I would be there at the end. It was one of those cases that gets under your skin like many do and that make you see how awful people or the circumstances they find themselves in can truly be.

The matter surrounded a sixteen year old boy who was minding his own business but was attacked and robbed of his bus fare home to where his parents were waiting. It was a brutal and sustained attack that there was no justification for at all.

I am not here to talk about the facts of the case as it is done and sentence passed and thankfully such instances are rare.

What was abundantly clear about this case was how far reaching the effects of crime can go. Some sympathy goes to the offender who by all accounts has led a difficult life with very little family support. There was no one at court to support him but now through the system he will get offered support and guidance to change. He just needs to want to and take the chances given. I hope he does.

Far more upsetting was how this one moment had touched a whole family.

From speaking to the boy and his family over the months leading to sentencing I could see how they been changed. Again I am not here to tell their story as it is theirs but with guidance and the support of each other and their wider family they in time I hope will heal. They will never be the same.

What touched me about this matter and again strengthened my resolve to keep doing what I am doing was this family. Like many others they were there when it mattered the most. They didn’t judge and they didn’t show anger only love and support for their children. They were not angry or upset over the length of sentence or the mitigation given by the perpetrators advocate. They are what family is all about. They are what keep me doing what we do and keep me caring.

So, back to black and white it is for me as I come back from leave to uniform duties. Just for two weeks I volunteered to help out. The main reason for leaving my warm and cosy office with regular (ish) hours was that I am a strong believer in always remembering where we come from and who we are.

I have spent most of my working life as a 24/7 uniform patrol and response officer and it is the skills that I acquired doing such a role that have made me who I am. Sometimes we need to go back to see where we are going next and to appreciate matters from others points of view.

Although Police officers and support staff work as one big team, each with an important role to play, it is those in the black and white uniforms who are at the front of making changes and keeping people safe so I will always offer to help out if needed, even if it means night shifts and being out after dark!

Winnie the Pooh is an inspirational leader.

A few days ago I was delighted to attend the graduation ceremony or passing out parade as it was in my day for the newest batch of student constables. The nerves were easy to spot even with the sharp creases and shiny shoes to distract.

Also that night was the graduation of our Police Cadets. A greater bunch of young people would be hard to find and it’s been fantastic to see them grow and mature.

Chief Constable Gary Roberts gave his speeches and throughout I was overcome by how much I still feel proud and lucky to be a police officer.

Sitting on the front row with family behind were the newest members of our Police family with no real idea of what they are about to face in the coming months and many years ahead but more than up for the challenge.

I could not decide if I envied them or was grateful that I was not one of them. However, what I did feel was an enormous sense of pride in what we do and how we are perceived.

The world of policing has changed a great deal since I swore my oath on the 28th August 1998 and to some it would be almost unrecognisable.

For example, when I joined we had only just got the main legislation and codes that we now work to approved and finalised. Before then I have been told that it was a whole different world. One where apparently you could arrest someone and keep them as long as you want! So, as you can see we have moved on and thank goodness for that.

When I started women officers were still called WPC’s and the photos of the baddies were all in an envelope in a filing cabinet. We didn’t have body armour nor gas and our radios weighed a tonne. Our reports we did on a type writer and we didn’t bombard people with emails. Instead we spoke, in person, or worst case scenario over a phone so not all has changed for the better.

In his speeches Mr Roberts made many references to Martin Luther King and ended on one from A A Milne and Winnie The Pooh. I smiled as the slide came onto the screen as it is not the first time that I had seen it nor I imagine the last. The message is quite simple and works for us all. Most importantly the use of such a quote at the completion of a great deal of hard work and effort on the students and cadets behalf was perfectly timed. It is a message that we should all consider and if brave enough follow. It is one we should teach our children and at times remind ourselves and others if they are able to listen:

Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.”

A A Milne. 

Take from this what you will but for me it is simple and true. Often these days with policies and procedures, health and safety and a common fear of risk taking we forget to take that simple leap. In policing this is often what we have to do but thankfully we have a great group of colleagues around us to take that jump with us even if the consequences are unknown or scary.

So welcome to our policing family and good luck in your chosen paths to the Cadets because trust me you’re in for an exciting time with plenty of trees that may fall down.

Spinning plates. 

To be a Police Officer and to always keep a partner, spouse, family or friend happy is a difficult task and often involves missing out or letting people down.  I have lost count of the family occasions , weddings , birthdays and general get togethers that I have missed out on, had to cancel,  stay only for a short time before heading off or getting called away from at short notice.  I have gained the reputation amongst some for being a bit rude but believe me I am far from that,  I simply can’t keep everyone happy all of the time or split myself into two! 

Like all my blogs this is not for sympathy or hugs but just to give an insight into the battle we sometimes face to balance our work and our families and friends. 

Again and as always it is a choice that we make and one that we do willingly but sometimes it is hard to see the look in loved ones eyes or the messages or comments about never being seen or always cancelling when we are having to go and deal with other peoples problems and needs over our own. But, that is what we do and who we are,  it is a conscious choice.

To be the partner, spouse, family or friend of a Police Officer must be hard, very hard and we all understand that and try our hardest to find the balance but sometimes we just can’t spin all the plates safely. 

Sometimes  we are simply so tired both physically and mentally that we can’t string a sentence together, sometimes we are short with them and snap and sometimes we simply need to be on our own as we don’t want to bring them into our world to share the nasty and sad things that we have to see.   We just need time to process the thoughts and put them away in the back of our minds so no one else can come to harm.

Sometimes we just want to sit and do nothing much and say very little. Think about it this way if it helps…. our job is to talk and listen all day and every minute.  

We talk and listen to our family before we leave home, our colleagues about what jobs we are going to and when, we talk on the phone, on our radios,  whilst speaking to victims and witnesses and whilst interviewing suspects.  We talk and we listen, it’s what we do to try to help  make sense of the issues faced by the people who ask us to help. 

So, after a long day of talking and listening sometimes we want to just sshhhhh. Just for a short time and to become a partner, spouse, family or friend again and to ensure that our plates keep spinning and everyone is safe and happy to the best of our ability. 

To the partners, spouses , family and friends of Police Officers I say this.. be patient, be kind, be strong and be understanding but above all it’s simple… be there even though we often are not.

Behind every great man..

It’s been a while. A while since I found something to talk about. A while since I have had the time. It’s always about time. When we are young there is too much and when older not enough. We just can’t seem to get the balance.

Policing is much the same, it’s all about time.  Sometimes we seem to have a lot; mainly when we are stood in the dark guarding a scene, at a road closure, waiting for back up when we are facing fear, or when we are waiting for that night shift to finish when we are down to the last half hour and the sun is up. 

However, mainly with police clocks we are talking about the lack of time. How much time do we have to deal with a job before the next one takes us away? How much time do we have to get to our colleagues in need of assistance?  How much time do we have on the clock to question that person suspected of harm? All questions that we go through on a daily basis and hope that the clock slows down.  Breathe, time enough. 

It used to be that when we joined we signed up for thirty years. That’s a lot of time to do this role. To face the fears we have to, see the things we wouldn’t choose to and do the things we sometimes wish we didn’t have to. 

It is a choice that we make to spend around a third of our lifetime doing this role.  It’s a choice we are happy to make. If we were not why would we? Would you? Could you? It is after all our choice and our time. No one forces us.

Over the past few years a lot of officers have ‘ done their time’ or sadly and cruelly had their time stopped  by the limitations of their body or mind after facing injury or illness.

I have seen many colleagues come and go.  More will follow, and in time so will I.

I have seen the pride they expressed regardless of how much time they gave and no matter how their clock was stopped.  Some were sad, some angry and bitter, but deep down and if they were honest, all had a sense of achievement that they had belonged to a group of people who give their time to others often at the expense of themselves. 

This goes too for our Support Staff  without whom we often would be lost, stumble or fall.  These men and women make a choice to work in our environment and often like us get to see and hear things that no one should. 

They read and type the written words that form the statements of the victims and witnesses.  They may not hear their voices through  the written page but the words tell a story often of pain and anguish that they cannot help but to listen and to feel.  

They transcribe our interview tapes of the people we are paid to protect society from. They listen to the words used and the allegations made while they write the story on the page. They cannot help but become emerged in this world of violence, fear and anger.  Again, it is their choice but they take it all in their stride, do justice in the written and spoken word and play a major part in making the victims words come alive and the perpetrators lies or confessions heard. 

The people who take the initial 999 calls and our front counter staff.  They take the time to listen, guide and support when people are often at the lowest point in their lives and at the time of their greatest need.  They are the first contact and their time is often the most important and must be used wisely and carefully.
Amongst the many retirements of late one stands out.  Alma. Just Alma. She doesn’t need a second name her first is enough. Today she left us after 29 years of time given to helping others as first contact at Police Headquarters. She was there when I started and still there 18 years later. Time has been good to her as I don’t see her as looking a day older! She will be missed terribly as she is part of the fabric of many of our lives and a hard act to follow.  Now  she gets her time, with who she wants to share it with,  but I’m pretty sure she will be back…it’s only a matter of time. 

It is her leaving party this evening and as I write this I wish I had been able to give her my time.  However, I am quite sure she will understand and insist that I am spending it with my family. 

Time is precious and should be guarded fiercely and shared wisely. Our family is what keeps us doing what we do. It enables us to carry on in the worst of times and enjoy the best. They are there in the background supporting us, worrying about us and helping us with everyday matters which in turn helps us to give as much as our time as possible to the community we have chosen to keep safe. 

However,  there comes a time in everyone’s lives that we need to look after others. To be there for them as they have for us.  Without our family we could not give as much as we do because we do what we do to make our community safer not just for our family but for everyone else’s. 

Time is precious, take hold of it before it runs away and share it wisely when it is needed the most with those you hold dear.
As for Alma, thank you from your police family and all the members of the public that you have helped over the time that you chose to give, you will not be forgotten only cherished. 

New faces from across the water and the wrong socks. 

Today I met four new colleagues who have joined the Isle of Man Constabulary from the UK. They were put through intensive and scary sounding interviews to get here and by the sound of which I would have crumbled.  I am hopeless at selling myself. In fact to get my new role as a trainee Detective I had an interview, the  first since I joined the Police in 1998. For some reason in my recent interview I thought it appropriate to put my foot on the table, right in front of the panel, whilst wearing  Muppets socks (uniform policy quite clearly states that this is not the best choice of sock). Suffice to say the moment was one I will cherish and likely will never be beaten.  I was given the job but I still do not know how as like I said I do not to sell well and sadly it is something that has held me back all my adult life.

We also got a shiny new Superintendant in the New Year also from over the water and she seems to be settling in well. I cannot pronounce her surname so thankful as ever to rank structure I have the safe option of Ma’am.

Since I joined we have had four Chief Constables. Two from our own brood and two that came from ‘the mainland’. There are different views held by different people on this and I am not here to judge. Besides all cops are the same. Simply people who want to help people regardless of where they come from, what they have did and where they are going. 

For anyone to choose to be a police officer I take my hat off to them and even more so these days with the extra burden faced by cutbacks, changes in society and beliefs and work and home life balance. It’s hard to get it all right all of the time but we choose to do this. Our Police Force is changing rapidly as is society and as we are moving forward we are grateful for all the help we can get.  It doesn’t matter where the help comes from as long as they hold the values and behaviours that run though us as people and us as an organisation. Society and it’s structures are moving at a very  fast pace and all government organisations have to keep up to make sure that we can continue to keep as many people safe as we can but without losing the things that make us as an Island full of rich culture strong. 

So, my advice to the new officers today as they were shown their new office was simple. We are Manx and sometimes we may do things that make you puzzled, confused or you may find our ways funny compared to the big world ‘over there’.  

We should all question things we are not sure of or disagree with as it’s how we learn and develop and make ourselves better. 

However, now you are with us on the ‘real mainland ‘ you may not always get an answer that to you makes sense or even you agree with and sometimes you can’t change it. 

So, sometimes just sometimes you just have to sigh and smile and in a  gentle exhale of breath say “Isle of Man” and then gaze out of the window to the green hills and the rolling sea and settle and repeat a well known Manx phrase  “Traa dy Liooar ” which quite simply means time enough.  So, welcome to our new family members and don’t forget to wear black socks. 

Time waits for no one. 

Recently I have been thinking a great deal about time. In August I reached my eighteenth year as a police officer and today I reached my forty first birthday. I was twenty two when I joined straight out of university. It seems like only yesterday. I had perfect eyesight and no grey  hair but now, according to a very good friend of mine , I “look more like Sue Perkins than she does” and the grey hairs are coming on nicely. 

A couple of weeks ago I was one of the last officers to leave one of our recently closed Police Stations. A station gone and with it countless memories remain within its walls. As I left I saw out of the corner of my eye a small wooden board propped against the wall. When I looked behind I found the brass plaque that had been displayed at the front of the building when opened many years before. I left with it under my arm and delivered it to the Chief Constables office to be kept as part of our history.  

Despite the closure of stations,  change was needed. To be more effective as a service with less money and resources,  downscaling and streamlining was inevitable as with many other parts of government. 

With the closure of this station came the centralisation of many policing departments and uniform staff. I had to smile as it is now  pretty much back to how it was all those years ago when I started. Most of the time in life you should never go back. However, in policing sometimes going back a few steps can work.

By reforming and regrouping into one main building there is a real buzz of excitement back into the place. Now, instead of sending an email or picking up the phone we can speak to each other face to face.  

At the start of the week I was asked to go to our new Staff Development Centre to assist the new student Constables with some role plays. I happily gave up my time to help them and it was great to get out of the office and do some shouting. Lots of shouting and some words my mother would scold me for and blush. It was after all Public Order Role Plays.

It was watching these brand new bobbies with shiny shoes and energetic enthusiasm that brought it all back to me. Time passes quickly and sometimes we just have to slow down and remember where we have been and where we want to go.

Sometimes we have to go back to basics, start again, fix things and sometimes we need to move forward, push ourselves and learn new things.

One of the Superintendents asked me the other day how I was finding my new role. My reply to him was as it has been for others. Everyday I am learning something new. Time has moved on for me and it was my time like these new officers to learn and develop myself as I enter the latter part of my career.  Time waits for no one so have no regrets and take any opportunity you can.