I should point out that the following ramblings are just my own personal opinions formed by my own experiences from the time I spent at Slougham (Sussex Police Training and Conference Centre) and are meant as just a rough guide for those of you that will be attending training there and what you can possibly expect… or are just curious as to what may happen during the training weekends.
I shall begin with some simple and advisable preparation… Possibly somewhere tucked away in a kitchen drawer along with usual array of half opened domestic bills and loose change is the letter that Sussex Police sent you telling you the date you need to attend Slougham Manor, posted with it may have been a sheet paper listing a few rules about what is expected of you during your weekend visits. I would strongly recommend re-reading before you embark on your training.
I would visit your local stationers and invest in an large A4 ring binder, a bumper pack clear paper wallets, possibly some divider sheets and a number of black pens (never before in my life have I ever used a pen so much that it ran out of ink before I lost it somewhere irretrievable). Some little post-it pads probably wouldn't go a miss, they make great temporary page markers (oh, and if you intend to go to the pub in the evenings… a decent torch and a high-visibility vest wouldn't be a bad purchase).
In addition, if you need internet access for your laptop you are going to need a USB broadband dongle. During my time I used o2 (which was fine if I was holding the laptop next to my bedroom window and even then it did require the occasional pirouette to obtain a signal) and 'three' which was actually quite good.
On your first day you will be given your room key fairly early on in the evening. It will require navigating a few flights of stairs and a lengthy corridor (passing thru the gym/ping-pong room) before you reach the students accommodation block. All the rooms have singles beds (took me back to my teenage years), an en-suite with a bath and overhead shower, toilet, hand basin (with an interesting assortment of taps located above it) and plenty of towels.
All the rooms have a wardrobe, shelves, work/writing area with a chair, bedside reading light, loads of plug sockets for your electrical paraphernalia/mobile phones and If you are very lucky you may have a TV that is capable of receiving a channel or two.
It must be said that the rooms are ok for the amount of time you will spend in them, though during the winter months it was anyone's guess if you were going to be baked alive or frozen to death (or both in any given 24 hours) thanks to the temperamental heating in the whole block (I bought some pajamas for the subsequent weekends, that really did take me back to my early teenage years).
In the accommodation block there is a kitchen with several fridges, a cooker, microwave, kettle, cups and cutlery, washing machine, ironing board and Iron. There is also a separate TV room (with a freeview box) a number of chairs and settees.
You will most likely be asked to join everyone else that has arrived in the canteen area for coffee/tea and biscuits before the first evening proceeds. This is a great opportunity to meet and chat to others. Once everyone assembles (I can't stress enough about the importance of arriving on time if possible, it's really is frowned upon and holds everyone else up) you will most likely be asked to go through to the largest room at the training centre in order for the *trainers to introduce themselves (we also had to take it in turn to introduce ourselves with our name, where we were being stationed (if we knew) and a sentence or two about ourselves).
*The trainers that co-ordinated our tuition and the lecturers are possibly the nicest people you could want. Very approachable and will help you as much as possible. They understand people learn in different ways and encourage you if you get stuck. It is quite likely you will be trained and lectured by the same team (Sussex). So if you're like me and didn't like school too much, there is nothing to worry about.
We were given a handout containing a timetable of our course containing what we were going to be doing and the topics we were going to cover during the following weekends along with a number of other hand-outs (the first of many hand-outs). The same weekend end saw all of us in unison provide our own DNA (to help eliminate us when we start attending real crime scenes) and fill in a form to order our lovely new shiny name badges.
At the end of day 2 saw us receive (very eagerly) our new uniforms to which the large majority of us scuttled off to our rooms and try on our new apparel, take pictures in the mirror in a manner various different states of pose and text them to our partners and close friends. You will be warned not to put photos of yourself in uniform on facebook and other social networking websites for reasons they will explain.
Wearing my police uniform for the very first time was really quite special. Never since high school have I had to wear a given choice of clothes and seeing myself stood there in the mirror sporting a pristine high visible police vest, white shirt and tie, black trousers and boots (Sussex police have since changed the police uniform) was very odd. In fact it didn't look like me staring back at myself but instead there was a policeman in my mirror that any member of the public would expect to know everything about policing the law. It dawned on me that there was so much to learn. It was all very exciting.
My box of uniform goodies comprised of: 2 Short Sleeve shirts, 1 Long sleeve shirt, 2 pairs of the most uncomfortable trousers ever worn by man, a black clip-on tie (now redundant for operational work), a pair of black low ankle boots, a lightweight hi-visibility vest, an all-weather hi-visibility jacket, a black fleece, a beanie-hat (still havn't found an operational use for this yet), a peaked police cap, a custodian helmet (aka the t*t), several pairs of epaulettes, a black leather belt, a utility belt, a small mag-light torch and various items of kit/pouches for my utility belt.
The new Sussex police uniform now includes: Black combat style cargo pants and black polo-esque shirts. I don't know if new students will any longer receive the white shirts and the incredibly itchy trousers.
What we didn't receive with our uniform was our stab-vest, police radio, hand-cuffs, baton and pepper spray (yes, I know it's not actually pepper spray, but it's the easiest description for people that are just joining), all this stuff came when we started our 'staff-safety' training (the physical stuff) towards the end of the course with exception to the police radio, you get that when you start I.S. training (to everybody else in the world that would be I.T. training).
We were expected to wear our uniform to our lessons and lectures after the first weekend ('staff safety' you will wear normal jog-pants and t-shirts) and technically, from day one of training you will be considered a 'resource' of the force, should something bad happen you could be asked to conduct a role for Sussex Police (manning the telephones etc). You will most likely be asked to take your full uniform with you each weekend incase of this remote eventuality.
Now, if for any reason at the end of your first weekend you were not given a copy of 'Blackstones Police Operational Handbook' (we were quite lucky and had a copy given to us) I would recommend going to Waterstones (the high street bookshop) and buying it and possibly a copy of 'The Beat Officers Companion' (it contains more random and some quite useful stuff that's not in Blackstones).
Blackstones is extremely useful when you start the 'law' side of things, it helped me as I was able to read-up on topics before covering it the class-room (I'm not the greatest learner in a lecture environment so being able to grasp the topic beforehand was invaluable to me). We were given paper hand-outs on pretty much everything we covered so not having the book wouldn't be the end of the world.
Quite likely early on in the course you will have a large chunk of a weekend devoted to first aid. A very worthy subject considering how much time you are going to spend with the public. This will involve pairing up with a class-mate through-out the topic and spontaneously give first aid to a rather suspect looking doll for various scenarios. It will also cover various medical conditions to be aware of and about the dangers of situations you may find yourself in when about to administer or during the administration of first aid. At the end and providing you don't actually kill anyone in the process you will get a recognized first aid certificate.
The subsequent weekends you will cover I.S. Training (again that's I.T. to you and I) where you are given your official police email address (you will be surprised how many 'force-wide' emails that will arrive in your inbox between your weekends) and your brand-spanky-new radio which is yours to take home with you.
Radio training is fun (after setting it up the fiddly little blighter, which even by my standards as a software developer was an interesting experience) and you are guaranteed to have forgotten all you have been taught by the time you actually get to use the thing for real.
Once you have been trained on the various systems, Slougham Manor has a room with several computers in which you can use your new found skills during breaks etc.
After a few weekends of law you will be heading for the 'Staff Safety' weekends. My advice would be to pack some Relgex bubble bath (or similar bath soak), a can of anti-persperant (it gets sweaty) and it probably wouldn't hurt to pack some pain relief tablets just in case! The intention is to teach you 'home office approved techniques' on escorting, handcuffing, searching and physical contact but due to the sheer amount of times you will practice on each other it will begin to hurt a little by the end of the day (despite the floor being padded), usually nothing a warm bubbly bath cant sort out.
For 'staff safety' you will have a dedicated team to take you through everything. At first glance they look scary! This maybe the first time you come in to contact with the trainers that teach the regular police force and as the police is a disciplined service it would be an idea to be respectful of that. Not that anything will happen to you but it would be a shame to portray the 'Specials' as un-disciplined to the very people you will shortly be working alongside. As soon as you start your 'staff safety' you will realize as with trainers you already know that they are actually a nice bunch and quite humorous too.
I would suggest for those of you that are quite physical is that 'staff safety' is about technique and not brute force. A few harsh take-downs and over zelous floor-pins will have your partner reaching for the ibuprofen in no time at all (not a great way to make good friends). Those of you that are not physical or of slight build, I personally wouldn't worry, like I said it's about technique and you will be amazed at the results of a well executed maneuver. We were offered the opportunity after we had finished for the day to come back to the room to practice a few things that we felt we needed to.
The very last topics in 'staff safety' is using your baton and 'pepper' spray (they provide with inert canisters that contain water). I'm quite a passive person by nature but found bashing the living daylights out a foam filled kick pad while displaying my 'serious' face and shouting "get back" at the top of my voice strangely good fun!
By the time you have got this far, you will have a basic understanding of the laws you may find yourself needing when you start your very first shift as a uniformed officer. You will have been given the knowledge in the physical handling of people you have detained, how to search them, how/when to use 'reasonable force' and how to protect yourself when you out on your beat. And by now you will be getting to grips with the insane amount abbriviations used for almost everything.
The last day of your timetable will most likely be 'scenarios', a whole day putting into practice all the things you have learnt, except this time you will be in full uniform including stab-vests, radios (yep, everything you had forgotten about them you will need to know (don’t worry, they will go over the main stuff again, probably)), handcuffs and baton (you won’t get your 'live' pepper spray until your first shift at PDU/NPT).
What might happen during the day could be: You will be paired or put into groups of two or three along with a tutor (possibly and if available a tutor constable from the station you are going to). You will then be directed to go to somewhere on the grounds and deal with what happens when you get there (it could be a number of things, but it will be something on the topic on which you have been given knowledge about), You will be asked to use your radios to update the radio controller. When that particular scenario has reached a conclusion you will be given feedback by the tutor and often the actors (who are also trainers/regulars/specials that you probably won’t know). It’s very constructive and you will find as the day progresses your confidence will grow.
Your final attendance at Slougham will be your attestation where you will be in full uniform and swear your oath (you will get time to practice and you will be reading it from a piece of paper in front of you), however the room will be full of important looking people (and yes they are actually quite important people), your kids/wife/husband/partner (you are allowed two). Upon finishing the most nerve racking thing ever, you will be given your warrant card and wallet/badge, a blue tube with your copy of the oath etc. There will also be a few speeches and a thank you to you.
It will be quite likely that your next step will be at a PDU (Professional Development Unit) where you will be crewed with a tutor constable to take your first steps out in the real world of policing. PDU will help you develop what you have learnt at Slougham. Once you have demonstrated a number of things in a real-life police situations at PDU you will be allowed to go to your final station where you will most likely join the Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) where of course the learning still continues.
My own personal experience of the training was really good (I missed going to Slougham for some weeks after) and the social aspect which to be honest before attending I considered staying at home in the evenings (I don't live that far from Slougham), I am so glad that I didn't. Many evening where spent down the local pub (directions below) getting to know my class-mates . After all, these are the people I may have to rely on in tricky situations some point later in my specials career.
The closest pub can be found by turning left out of Slougham's long driveway, walking to the village (about 10 minutes walk) and the pub is on the right just after a road junction. They have a restaurant serve pretty good food but be warned (and unfortunately quite sadly) during our many evenings there, if they were busy the restaurant staff considered us after anyone else that walked in.
Another pub which is about a 20/25 minute walk can be found by turning right out of Slougham Manor, walking along the road under and under the A23 bridge, continuing on until you come to a triangular green (think its used for cricket), turn left and at the end of the short road is a really nice little country pub (where the bar staff can't seem to make the same round add up the same value, but usually works quite favorably), or alternatively at the green just continue on a little bit and a large restaurant will be on your right.
These venues are right in the middle of the rural countryside and as such will be very dark at night. If you don't have a torch you will most likely not even be able to see the road you are walking along! Since there are no pavements I would recommend wearing a high-visibility vest as the cars that do occasionally use the road are normally going at some speed.
Speaking of food and refreshment, we had breakfast (full English or cereal with fresh Juice), lunch (bit of a lucky dip in regards to the edibility) and dinner (again, Russian-roulette with the taste buds) provided for us and several official coffee breaks (with biscuits… get there quick if you like jammy-dodgers) in the canteen. Although my comments above may seem negative, I'm sure the cook (who was there from breakfast to tea-time) was doing his best with materials/budget he was given. I had several emergency pot-noodles and ate a few times (when they would serve us food) at the local pub. Oh now I recall, the desserts where pretty good.
Smoking is permitted near the refuge area in the main front carpark (and I think there is a smoking area near the accommodation block, but late at night, the room residents would most likely appreciate that noise is kept to a minimum. Smoking is definitely not allowed anywhere else (especially in the rooms or buildings).
Alcohol isn’t officially allowed in Slougham, however, since we where a sensible bunch (honestly) it was over-looked if we had a drink in the TV room provided nobody complained or there was no bad behavior (then a blanket ban would be enforced).
Mobile phone reception is pretty scant, you will be lucky to get a signal anywhere except out the front of the manor house or the top floor of the accommodation block. The whole of the village seems to be devoid of mobile phone signal (you are best letting partners know this saving much grief later).
All the time that you spend at Slougham counts towards your minimum hours that you are asked to commit to Sussex Police in your role as a Special Constable (you will most certainly hit the target 16 hours a month (4 hours a week) in your first weekend!).
Many people on the course took out an optional 'business travel' on their car insurance (as did I) before they started the course that provides cover for travel 'to' and 'from' a place of work and for 'milage in connection with a full or part time job'. The cost for me was very minimal (I'm fast approaching 40) and having it makes sure that should I have an accident on the way to training/duty I know I am covered.
While I have been on duty, I have never been asked to drive anywhere in my own car for Police related work and cant ever see that happening either so really its more about the 'to' and 'from' bit of the insurance.
As I mentioned before, having completed the course it would be a good thing to remember that it's just the tip of the iceburg of the learning to come. You won't just be kicked out and be expected to know everything (although you will be expected to have a good understanding of the basics). You won't be expected to get everything right, but you should always ask or speak up when you feel you need help.
At the end (and throughout) it was a common theme amongst everyone on the course that it was one of the best things they had ever done. I'm pretty confident by the end of it, you will feel the same!
Hopefully I may see you at Slougham on your senarios day (the last couple of times I have played a drunk, now thats type-casting for you!) or if you are stationed at Brighton Central I look forward to working with you
Edited by elloelloello, 25 July 2010 - 12:06 PM.