In order to explain how I found myself doing two night shifts alongside an inspector from Staffordshire Police, I must first mention the Mentorship Programme that I am a part of. At the end of my first year studying Criminology I applied for a career mentor. I expected to be paired with someone vaguely connected to crime and justice who might meet me once for a coffee and proof read my CV. However to my surprise, I was paired with an inspector from Staffordshire Police called Damian Billington, who came up to Lancaster several times to meet with me and even invited me to come and join him on some shifts. From our very first conversation, Damian gave me an honest and enthusiastic insight into what a career in the police force was like, and I was hooked! I immediately took Damian up on his offer to visit Staffordshire Police, and did one shift with him in January and two busy Friday and Saturday night shifts at the end of the summer.
Staffordshire Police Force
Staffordshire is located in the West Midlands. It incorporates the busy city of Stoke-on-Trent in the North, as well as the towns of Stafford in the West, Cannock, Lichfield and Tamworth to the South over to Burton-on-Trent in the East. In comparison to forces such as the Met and Greater Manchester, Staffs Police is relatively small, however it is comprised of over 1000 officers serving a population of over 1 million. The shifts that I joined lasted from 4pm until 3am on a Friday and Saturday, and consisted of 47 Police Officers, 5 Sergeants, 7 Armed Response Officers, 2 Dog Units and 3 Inspectors; one of whom was Damian. With different shifts coming on at different times, there were at least 100 Officers on duty these nights.
When I first arrived on the Friday evening I sat in on a briefing – the usual way to start each shift. In this briefing Damian introduced me to the squad, and requested that they were all honest and open in their conversations with me. I really appreciated this, as I wanted a true representation of the realities of policing rather than a sugar coated version. Throughout my visit I was able to get a glimpse of the team spirit and camaraderie among police officers. This spirit of friendship and community appeared to be a real necessity in a job that is often difficult and demanding. In the course of both shifts, Damian and I spent a lot of time out in the police car responding to emergency calls. These involved a wide range of things, such as responding to a road traffic collision, using an enforcer to gain access to a house, responding to reports of a dead body, and searching for a vulnerable and suicidal individual in a grave yard late at night. During my time there, over 1000 incidents each day were reported to Staffs Police.
In my previous visit to Staffs Police, Damian was the control room manager. This meant I was able to spend time in the control room witnessing 999 calls coming in, and observing as the dispatchers gave instructions to officers out in the response cars. I shadowed Damian as he oversaw this whole operation, and was in charge of making important decisions, such as whether or not to dispatch Armed Response Vehicles. During my first visit I spent time with these Armed Response Officers, who showed me the vast array of equipment they are trained to potentially use. This demonstrated to me the huge responsibility these officers undertake when doing their job. This previous knowledge I had gained about the Armed Response Unit, as well as the insight into the inner workings of the control room, meant that I had a real understanding of the intricate, behind-the-scene workings of the police force. I felt this really aided my learning during the time I spent in the response car with Damian receiving radio instructions from the control room and responding to incidents.
Overall, I feel that this has been a really valuable and insightful experience for me, one which I count myself very lucky to have been offered. Before working with Damian I had never considered applying to policing, but now I am hoping to apply for a fast-track graduate scheme in policing later this year. I am really grateful to Damian for allowing me this opportunity and investing his time and efforts into mentoring me. When I applied in first year, I didn’t realise that the Mentoring Scheme would have such a big impact on my future. For any undergraduate students considering applying, I would say go for it, I couldn’t recommend it enough!