When I joined the service in the late 80's it was recognised as a career for life, you joined for the 30 year stretch. You made a life long commitment and I for one felt proud and compelled to make it. I never for one minute doubted my choice despite being thrust into a turbulent unknown world from my humble middle class background. I was naïve in the ways of the world and I embarked on a learning curve enviable by some of the worlds biggest roller coasters.
I wore a skirt, a white stiff collared shirt, a tie, a tunic and the stipulated Marks & Spencer's barely black tights! I was issued with a black long mac, a black anorak, a thin black V neck jumper to wear under my tunic if it were to get cold. Then there was the obligatory ladies hand bag, a pair of metal hand cuffs, their leather pouch, oh yes and a black belt! Plus epaulettes, chrome numbers and the pins to secure them.
I wonder what I would have made back then of what the service has become in the last 28 years?
When I joined the 'old sweats' were still bleating on about that damned new legislation called PACE and lamenting for their familiar judges rules!
My very first piece of PPE other than the cuffs came about 18 months into my service when I got issued with a mini wooden baton, (half the size of the men's) In time I then watched the long 'Arnold' baton come and go before the issue of extendable batons called ASPs. I've watched utility belts arrive only to be replaced by 'tac' vests. I saw the introduction of rigid cuffs to the exclusion of the old chain versions. I've watched stab proof vests be introduced as a station resource, before then becoming personal issue. There were NATO jumpers that appeared as tunics became relegated to stalwarts of the court room before ultimately being ditched altogether in some places. CS gas arrived and was then replaced by pepper spray. From no computers at all, to the basic ones with a dot matrix printer, to the high tech internet beasts of today.
There were canteens with friendly staff looking after officers and police bars a plenty. Heading to the bar to let of steam after a late shift was common practice. There were meals and teas/coffees provided when on courses, all these little extra financial compensations have all evaporated.
I started with a basic Motorola UHF pack set radio, with VHF sets in the cars.
I recall being the first on the shift to have a mobile phone and being laughed at that they wouldn't catch on!
Then came trousers for us women, they were those itchy woollen goddamn awful things but they were trousers. Now of course the military like combat trouser is king.
So many, many changes over the years. But the biggest change of all?
The loss of morale and the loss of feeling like you were part of a large family that got through the shite together, on or off duty. There was a feeling back then that the bosses had our backs, generally speaking politics had no place in policing and that the job was about locking up the bad guys.
Back in those dark ages the public respected their police service and the media didn't seem to jump so quickly and avidly to stamp their disapproval upon us at every turn. We felt valued and that made the most enormous difference.
The police service of 2017 is depleted, under resourced and vilified by the press. Politics is at the forefront of policing and catching the bad guys has to be done to fit a political agenda! God forbid we upset a crook!
What is to become of this changed police service?
Officers are leaving in droves to find work elsewhere regardless of the pay drops they are taking. What price peace of mind they must be thinking. If you can see your family more than one weekend a month, escape the horrific pressures, the dangers and regain your mental health why not? Life is for the living surely? Officers are expected to work so many unsocial shifts, so many cancelled rest days, lose their hard earned leave and for what?... a wage that is in real terms falling? Why would anyone want to work in that sort of environment?
Career chasers' can be heard talking the leavers down, uttering abusive insults about flipping burgers and the like but I can't help but feel they've used these hard working officers backs to climb up to the lofty heights of their high horses, grinding them down and breaking their spirits in the process. We need more than lip service, we need more than someone saying they're supportive of their troops. We need evidence of that support. There is no use talking the talk without walking the walk otherwise it only serves to be an exercise in ticking the boxes of their ridiculous policy books.
Perhaps the governments ultimate aim is to drive us all out before they employ a private company like G4S?
I'm sad, I grieve for what was. I don't feel I have any place in the shambles the service is becoming. It's broken me, it's taken away my spirit and like any bully it just laughs at me for it and denies all responsibility. I'm not alone, there will be many more like myself that are broken irreparably by their service to our country. The pressure, the dangers, the thankless task it has become.
So, the question raised today was whether leaving the police service for another job was a viable option? I'd have to say that's a big fat yes wouldn't you?