Making a difference on the Police Now graduate scheme
When I was younger I was a bit sceptical of the police, having had some negative encounters with them such as being stopped and searched. But I realised that you can’t understand or change systems from the outside, so I got involved with policing to make a difference. That’s what Police Now’s mission is all about.
Figuring out what is important to you and what you don’t want to compromise on can help you to find the right career. Attending careers fairs taught me about what I didn’t want to do! Lots of corporate companies were in attendance and their world just didn’t draw me in. I realised that what was important to me was serving the public and that I wanted a job where I was out engaging with people instead of sitting behind a desk.
Putting personal experience into practice
I think what made me stand out when applying to Police Now was that I was 100 per cent myself. I even critiqued elements of policing that had personally affected me. Police Now wants people to remain themselves even as police officers because the police need to represent everyone.
My communication skills were also valuable – not just talking to people but being able to listen and quickly understand what the issue is. This ability was enhanced by me becoming heavily involved with Nightline, a Samaritan-inspired student listening service, at university. Getting a job supporting college students after graduating also gave me experience of working with people who had personal issues at home or complex needs such as learning disabilities and autism. As a police officer I use these skills every day and feel comfortable supporting vulnerable people.
Getting to the root of a problem
Police Now focuses on neighbourhood policing, which appealed to me as I am drawn to problem solving and the more complex issues behind crime. A problem comes to our attention because a crime has taken place, but rather than only dealing with the ‘crime element’ we come up with long-term strategies to address the causes. We have weekly or fortnightly meetings with social housing providers, social care, the NHS and the fire service to bring the right people to the table. The rewards last a long time and affect a whole community. Being a neighbourhood police officer really is about being a leader in the community you are serving and having direct responsibility around changing people’s lives for the better.
One thing I’ve personally achieved was addressing a long-term drug-dealing problem. I spent time mapping addresses that had been linked to the supply of heroin and crack cocaine, working with colleagues to locate the intelligence we’d received. Some of these locations had been open for 15 years, and the difference after we’d closed them down was amazing. I saw people coming outside who had previously been unwilling to speak to the police; they were really grateful. I wrote some guidance on best practice around these premises closures and that’s what won me the Achieving Cheshire Excellence award.
Chances to challenge and change strategy
What sets Police Now apart is that while learning how to be a police officer you are encouraged to think critically about how things should be done. You learn about various strategies and then choose the one that will work best or even come up with your own solution. Every 100 days you present to peers on the work you’ve done, sharing your best practice and what hasn’t worked. This keeps you focused on creating an impact and helps to grow that evidence base of different strategies. People might have different opinions on how to solve a problem, but everyone’s motivation is the same – it’s such a positive and supportive working environment.
Choosing where to go next
Whether you stay in policing after completing the programme is up to you. The skills you learn will be useful in other areas such as the civil service or business generally. Everyone has the opportunity to do a secondment of up to four weeks during the programme, which can be either in a different area of policing or with a different organisation that Police Now has links to. It gives you connections so that, if you do want to leave policing, there might already be someone who is keen to employ you. I was seconded to PA Consulting; they picked our brains about policing and we also looked into whether they could assist the police in terms of officer wellbeing.
I have chosen to stay in policing, but even within the police there are so many specialisms you can go into: examples include covert policing, counterterrorism or child protection, as well as emerging areas such as cyber policing. Everyone has a different skillset that policing can draw upon and help you to develop further.
My aim is to become a detective. There’s an initial exam, which I’ve already passed, followed by a seven-week training course and then placements within different specialisms over the subsequent 12 months. I’m also studying towards a part-time masters degree in policing, policy and leadership with the University of Portsmouth – but I still have enough time to spend with friends, family and my dog!
Having completed the Police Now programme means that I will maintain that drive to transform society for the better, whatever role I am in.