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Taking the leap

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#26 Lord Vader

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Posted 22 June 2005 - 09:26 AM

Time for another update... well it wasn't quite 6 months but nearly!

The anti car-crime operation I started up with another PC ran from January through to a couple of weeks ago, when it was temporarily suspended (for reasons I'll explain in a minute). Although I was heavily involved at the beginning, I quickly realised that it wasn't going to be for me - there was far too much time in the office, too many people asking me to organise this or that. And while I could do that sort of job standing on my head (because it's what I did in my previous life), it was definitely not why I joined the police. So after about a week I went to see the Chief Inspector and told him I wanted to return to my team. He was a bit p***ed off, but understanding. And I was a lot happier!

During the last few months I've had some cracking jobs and am now a fairly regular fixture in the custody suite (either nicking people or doing overtime as a detention officer!). Highlights so far include - getting rammed off the road by some auto-crimers when I tried to stop their car; finding about 30 wraps of cocaine stuffed inside a girl's bra; looking after the Queen at the races and being involved in some fairly high profile incidents. Plus I completed my PDP (Personal Development Portfolio) 9 months early. Thank goodness I don't have to worry about that any more :D

In terms of arrests I've made 50 so far, now that might not sound like much but I've been properly operational for about 48 weeks so it's more than one a week, which for a borough officer (we don't respond to jobs remember) is not a bad rate.

There have been some downsides as well, a very unpleasant run-in with a colleague who was extremely insulting about me, then when challenged threatened me (that was sorted out by my sergeant and inspector) - hey at least I got a PDP entry out of it ;); there's a lot of politics in the job which gets rather tiring at times... I just try to get on with my job as best I can; oh and I managed to badly scrape a rented mini-bus which I was driving, so I am currently suspended from driving :) Hey ho.

The best news I had in the last few weeks is that I am being nominated as Police Review's Probationer of the Year :lol: - actually I made that sound better than it is, all it means is that my division has put me forward. Whether I actually get even into the shortlist remains to be seen, but nevertheless it's very flattering and I am obviously well pleased about it :whistle:

Finally, to bring you right up to date, for the next few weeks my team are all on investigation duties - unfortunately due to staffing problems in the investigation team we are helping them to deal with some of the 'overflow' of crime. This means a lot of sitting in front of the computer, ringing people up, taking statements etc. I'm not very happy about it, because the whole idea of my force's 'streaming' is that they didn't want us to be multi-skilled, we weren't trained as investigators because we would never need to do it, or so the plan went. But here we are and I will make the best of it. I think I'll focus on those crimes that have bodies on the end of it and get back to custody!

#27 Lord Vader

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Posted 10 October 2005 - 05:51 PM

Time for another update, I think -- I haven't left it for six months this time at least!

Well we're all back on our proactive team duties after that period spent on investigative duties in the summer... it ended up being about six weeks in the end. It was good experience but I don't want to do it again any time soon!

The Probationer of the Year thing was confirmed, I have been put forward by my force and there's a big shindig awards dinner thing in London next month. I am not expecting to be the 'winner' but hey there's a free dinner in it :blu:

I've been successful in my application for search team, which is a role I have always been interested in. These are the guys who, er... search for stuff! Basically the search team are specialists in finding things, so they are called in for anything that requires a detailed, fingertip search - apart from the obvious such as major crime scenes, they're also used for operations like drugs search warrants. They are sometimes on call so there's a bit of extra cash in it as well. My training / assessment for that is at the end of this month and I'm really looking forward to it. The only question I have is, does my bum look big in these overalls? :lol:

I have also applied to become a tutor. Seems a bit strange when I am not even out of my probation myself, but the opportunity is there and it's something that interests me. I think I've been selected but so far no date for the course. There's a bit of dosh in this as well - a small bonus for every probationer trained. Watch this space!

Oh and as well as all of that I have finally got my driving ticket back after the embarassing episode with the transit van (see earlier diary entry!). So I am back on the road, being very careful, and hoping that I get an advanced driving course in the near future.

The sad news is that it's all change in our team - three of our guys are leaving, one to join a different team (he's been on our team for ages); another has just left to join the Met's hard blokes (the TSG) and a third is emigrating to the US. We have some new people joining us as well, so there are exciting times ahead as we get used to each other. At this rate I will be one of the longest serving PCs on the team :whistle:

I bumped into someone today who hadn't realised (or actually had forgotten!) that I am now a regular. She asked me the question I get all the time - do I have any regrets about going full time? The simple answer is - no! I absolutely love my job. I work with a great bunch of people, have a varied and interesting range of jobs to do, and am being fairly successful at it. It has genuinely been like getting paid to do my hobby for the last 20 months! I am very glad I took the leap :)

More to follow when and if I have something interesting to update you on :lol:

#28 Lord Vader

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 09:00 PM

Now seems like a good as time as any to give you an update, in fact there's been so much going on during the past few months that I hardly know where to start.

I guess the highlight was the Probationer of the Year awards which took place last November, organised by Janes' Police Review magazine. I was one of 31 probationers nominated for the award nationally. It was what they call a 'glittering evening', Janes' had done a superb job and the event was attended by over 500 serving officers, including 23 Chief Constables and 26 DCCs or ACCs. Sir Ian Blair, the Met Commissioner, was there as was Hazel Blears the Minister for Policing. All in all it was a fantastic evening and I was utterly thrilled to have been nominated (you have probably guessed by now that I didn't win!).

I got to meet the rich and famous - like Nick Ross ("don't have nightmares") and the Rt Hon Hazel Blears, minister for policing. Who was very small and absolutely lovely!

Next as I mentioned in my last post, my application for search team was successful and I undertook my week of training in December (I think). It was a very good course, run jointly by the army and the national police search training centre. I am delighted to say I passed (even though in the venue search I did manage to miss a bomb which would have wiped out our VIP if it was for real :whistle: :D ) I have since carried out a few 'real' searches, all crime related which to be honest is more interesting. There's a great team spirit on search team and I have enjoyed my days on the team enormously so far, even though they tend to be quite long and very tiring (and cold at the moment!). Looking forward to doing more - that's why my phone is always switched on ;)

Last month I succeesfully completed my probationary period and was signed off as a substantive PC, not only does this mean considerably less time spent making the tea, cleaning the cars and polishing the sergeant's boots (!), it also means a half-decent payrise. So that was nice. I still have to have my interview with the Superintendent but that I think is pretty much a formality and a pat on the back... at least nobody has told me otherwise :lol: :D

No sooner am I out of my probation than I have my very own probationer to train! Yes I applied for and took a tutor's course just before Christmas and am now tutoring. It's actually great fun, the guy who has been assigned to me is a great chap and very hardworking and keen to learn. I find it very tiring though, not only do I have to do my job but I have to help him do his and explain everything in detail as we go along, as well as answer lots of questions... none of this is a problem but it does mean by the end of the day I am pretty knackered!

Finally I am up to my eyes at the moment in revision because I am taking my promotion exam (PC -> Sergeant) next month. There are reams of stuff to learn in all sorts of painstaking detail, basically it's almost the entire contents of all four Blackstones' manuals, for those who know what they look like. Wish me luck!

In summary - I still love my job and have absolutely no regrets about going full-time... more updates to follow once I have something interesting to say!

#29 Lord Vader

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 03:03 PM

A quick update for those who are interested... work is continuing apace and I'm still loving it, well most of the time - like any jobs there are some days when all I want to do is go home and go to bed!!

The biggest news for me anyway is that I took and passed Part I of my Sergeants' exam, and what's more did really well. I even got a letter from the ACC congratulating me on achieving an 'exceptional' score - in fact I came 70th in the country, which out of 7,600+ candidates puts me in the top 1% (sound of own trumpet being blown very loudly :D)

So what does that mean for me... well, not an enormous amount straight away to be honest. I 'act' as sergeant in my sergeant's absence, which can be fun... I can also apply for sergeant's jobs as they come up although as only a part-qualified officer I will be fairly low in the pecking order.

The next step on the promotion ladder is to take Part II of the exam in November - this is a role-play based assessment and seems to be universally dreaded by most. So training for that starts in the next few weeks.

The World Cup is keeping all of us pretty busy at the moment, not helped by a large spike in additional jobs after the first England match which had us run ragged for a few hours. As a result the powers that be have been cancelling rest days and putting us on special World Cup patrols in an attempt to tackle(ho ho) football related public (dis)order. Some have had more rest days cancelled than others and for everyone it's a pain in the neck, especially those who enjoy football. I got to watch yesterday's game (England v Ecuador) but missed the last two and will miss the next one (England v Portugal) through work :whistle: At least some of it is on overtime which softens the blow a bit!

We have been having some great results at work, disrupting and arresting wherever possible the relatively small group of people who commit a large proportion of the vehicle-related crime in our area. It's very satisfying when these people are being harried and annoyed and taken off the street by us, if only for a short while, because you can see the immediate results on our overnight crime figures.

Anyway that's about it for now - I can't think of much more to add. Next update when I have something else to tell you (probably after the sergeant's exam knowing me :lol:)

#30 Lord Vader

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 09:56 AM

Oh dear - another six months has gone by since I last updated my diary! Blimey how time does fly. Well let me see if I can bring you up to date with half a year's worth of work in a few lines :whistle:

I spent two months as an Acting Sergeant during the summer, in charge of a number of teams basically as holiday cover while their usual sergeants were away. Much of the time I was looking after beat officers and PCSOs. Although I found the pace somewhat slower than my usual, proactive, role, I really enjoyed it - I tried to get out of the office every day (sometimes a bit difficult with the amount of paperwork to check, crimes to review, and meetings to attend :D) and spend time getting a better understanding of the community officer's role. I also had a few unusual things to get my teeth into, including an investigation into a suspected brothel - as they say in the tabloids, 'I made my excuses and left...' :lol: I was also sergeant for my own team for a few weeks, that was great fun and we had some good results, always good for the PDR :)

I didn't mention in my last entry that I took and passed my response driving course - it's a three week course teaching you the police driving 'system' as well as how to control the vehicle at high speeds. I found it pretty tough - the instructors are good guys but they demand high standards and your driving is being constantly assessed throughout the three weeks. The last couple of days are spent blatting about on blues and twos. Amazing how many members of the public never look in their rear-view mirrors, or have their radio so loud they can't hear sirens! And in January this year I went back to driving school to complete my three-day pursuit course. That was excellent fun, whizzing around chasing an unmarked police car, putting out stingers and the like.

I'm currently tutoring a new PC, so that's keeping both of us busy - although I have had to take about 14 days off between now and the end of March in order to use up my holiday allowance before I lose it. What with that, several courses that I must attend, and another period of sergeant's duties starting in the near future, I'm not going to be around much for the poor chap! However I am sharing the tutoring with another officer, she's far better than me anyway so he'll be OK :D

As I mentioned in my last entry, my Part 2 OSPRE exam was on the horizon. The Part 2 consists of seven role plays ('scenarios'), each conducted to a conclusion in 5 minutes. These are of course assessed across a range of competencies such as problem solving, maximising potential, resilience and respect for race & diversity. It's similar in some ways to the role plays done during the recruitment assessment centre, but they are testing your ability to perform at the next rank - sergeant.

I did a fair amount of prep for the exam - my Inspector put me through endless practice scenarios, ruthlessly ripping me to shreds after each (thanks, ma'am :D), I used Police Review's scenarios and also shelled out over £200 of my own hard-earned cash to attend an external course. The exam was in November and although I felt I did well, you're never sure - it's not like a knowledge exam where you can go home and look up the answers!

Anyway I am very chuffed to say I passed, in fact my score was 2nd highest in the country. Yes yes I know I let you all down, I should have been first. I'm a slacker, what can I say. It means nothing really, a pass is a pass and the score will be forgotten by everyone but me in the long run.

So now I am fully qualified as a sergeant, with just over 3 years' service. The next step is complete the 17 page (!) PC to Sergeant application form, which was submitted last week. Now I wait and see if I am invited to a board (the formal interview process). And if I pass that, it's just a matter of waiting for a sergeant's job to come up and be offered to me... watch this space!

#31 Lord Vader

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Posted 01 May 2007 - 08:56 AM

Time for another update, I am being all efficient and organised today, I've even done the Power User draw on time!

To bring you up to date... once you've passed your Part I and II exams, you can then formally apply for promotion by submitting a huge written application form. This has questions about the various sergeant's competency areas, which you have to answer in 250 words or less. It's a bit like the initial police application form in some ways, except that you must demonstrate experience from your policing career thus far. The application forms are all 'sifted', with a certain number being weeded out and the rest being invited along for the 'board' - a formal interview.

My application wasn't sifted out (phew!) and I attended my sergeant's board in March. This is with three members of the senior management team - the HR director and two superintendents in my case - and they ask you seven questions, again all based on the sergeant's competencies. You then have to answer the question, remembering to hit all the various 'behaviours' that are important for that particular competency, using examples where possible.

Anyway later the same day I found out that I'd passed the board, which was fantastic news. I then had a meeting with HR to discuss my preferences for my posting... I asked to go to the response team on a different division (one nearer to home). Oh, and I told them I definitely did not want to go to custody. The postings are all decided in a big meeting at HQ, and the day after the meeting I got my posting... custody :whistle:

Although I was very disappointed at the time, especially since the role of custody sergeant is an 'inside' role instead of an 'outside' one, I've now come to terms with it and am quite looking forward to starting my new job at the end of this month. It will certainly be very different to what I'm doing now, there's a very steep learning curve, with lots of law and procedure to learn. The shift pattern's not half bad too, 6-on / 4-off. Oh and of course there's a pretty healthy pay rise to go with the promotion too :lol:

Right now I am serving out my last month with my current team, it will be a real wrench to leave them, they're a great bunch of people who it's an absolute joy to work with. I'm also acting sergeant at the moment as our regular sergeant broke his wrist ski-ing (bad for him, good for me :lol:) so am enjoying it even more than usual.

I'll update the diary once I have settled into the new role... life from the other side of the custody bridge!

#32 Lord Vader

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 09:27 AM

It's a quiet Sunday morning, all is calm on the forum and I have some spare time for a change... so here's a diary update for you. And it's only been three months since the last one :p

Well I'm now firmly entrenched in the dungeons of custody, having been promoted Custody Sergeant at the end of May. I had a week long course on the computer system (booking people in and out, moving their property around, authorising charges, and all the shennanigans around bail as well), followed by a two-week custody course. This one was at HQ and was pretty full-on, lots of guest speakers. At the end of the course though all 5 of us were full of trepidation - there's so much that can potentially go wrong in custody! Our ACC also came along and emphasised the importance of custody to the entire criminal justice system - if we don't get it right in custody, then there's a chance that a case could be lost at court. No pressure :lol:

After that course it was a week of first aid - not my favourite subject. We had inputs on all manner of diseases, afflictions, ailments and conditions to look out for in custody, and learned how to use the enormous first aid kit that's kept in there. This included fitting neck braces, putting in airways (in the mouth and nose :saint:) and sucking out vomit from the casualty's mouth. Lovely! A few days after the course we had a formal assessment where you had to demonstrate all the techniques you learned - despite my dislike of all things first aid (I'm basically squeamish I think!) I passed that fine.

So my job now is to run one of my force's four custody suites. I had a couple of weeks tutoring from an established custody sergeant followed by five weeks holiday (burning up all that unused annual leave again!) and now am back and running the show on my own. I have a staff of four DO's (detention officers) who do the majority of the running about, looking after prisoners' welfare, moving them around the custody suite, doing the checks and the like. I'm responsible for all the decisions in there.

It can be an enormously stressful job, and I never realised quite how busy it is until I started the job. I like you have spent many long hours sitting in holding cells with a prisoner waiting to be called through to custody, and have cursed and wondered what on earth is taking so long. Well let me assure you that in my case certainly when we're busy, we are absolutely flat out. Late shifts are the worst - you can have up to 15 prisoners in the bin, all with varying health issues, drunks needing 15 minute rousal checks, doctors and paramedics turning up to assess prisoners, PCs, DCs, and prisoner handling staff wanting to interview suspects, and prisoners needing to be charged, bailed and kicked out. I have worked absolutely non-stop for 10 solid hours, without even the time to go for a wee, let alone eat or drink. So next time you've had to wait an hour or two to get in front of the custody sergeant, have a little sympathy!

Having said that, there are days when you've got one or two prisoners in only, who are perhaps going to court the following day so nobody needs to interview or see them, and you can sit around and catch up with paperwork, or just chill and have a chat with your team. But those days are the exception rather than the rule, believe me!

It's worth making a quick mention here of my DO's. They are worth their weight in gold. Not only do they do all the running around, but they are my trusted advisors too. They have far more interaction with the prisoners than me - I can go an entire shift without even laying eyes on some of the prisoners in my care - and will advise me if someone should see a paramedic, or can go on 60 minute checks rather than 30's, or is sober enough for charging. So have respect for DO's, your custody sergeant certainly does!

One shock has been the huge amount you're supposed to know. PACE code C (detention of prisoners) isn't that long but is full of rules and conditions which I'm supposed to know off the top of my head. It's coming, but I've cocked up a few times. Solicitors on the whole are a good bunch of people, but you do get the occasional one who scents that you're new to the role and tries it on. It can be very difficult arguing a point with them when they know PACE better than you :whistle:

Every day, no matter how busy or quiet a day, I will be asked something by someone to which I don't know the answer. Although with the advent of CPS Direct a lot of the responsibility for charging decisions has been taken away from custody sergeants, there's still a lot I can decide on - cautions, some low-level charges, and the decision to bail. Not to mention all the procedures that go on in custody and the rules around those. Fortunately I can ask my DO's as well as look in my big Blackstones book - learning all the time!

Well that's about it for now, I'm happy to answer any questions about custody, bearing in mind my limited experience. But not in this thread - this is all mine :p

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