I’ve always said that if I wanted to earn decent money, then I wouldn’t be a copper.
I was a building surveyor before I joined the force way back in 1995 and took a significant wage decrease, but I didn’t mind as it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
It’s not about the money; it’s about making a difference to people.
No matter who they are, whether they’re a suspect or victim, it’s about making a positive difference to people’s lives.
It’s corny but I love giving something back, that’s my reward. If you get pleasure out of treating people right and someone sincerely saying thank you, then it’s the best job in the world.
If I’m charging someone with GBH and as they leave they say thank you, then that’s my reward. Money can’t buy that.
What I enjoy about working in custody is the not knowing who is going to come through the door next. You might get someone who is really violent, someone who is regularly in trouble with the law, or someone who is totally lost in this alien environment.
I never judge anyone. I’ve had an interesting life, I moved house 19 times between the ages of 16 and 20 and my best mate was a heroin addict. I’ve been on the other side, so I never judge anyone, and I think that’s what helps me when it comes to dealing with people who we get into custody.
I’m not there as a judge or juror, I’m there to treat them as the individuals they are.
I’ve got a way of building rapport very quickly. One example is a bloke in a cell who needed his clothing seizing, and who was known for being ultra-violent.
He was threatening to beat anyone who went through the door.
So I sent the custody officers away and knocked on his door. I asked him if I could please come in – and I think he was surprised that I’d ask.
He let me in and I sat on his bed, so that he was taller than me, and after 10 minutes of chatting he gave over his clothes.
You need the skill of being able to build that rapport in order to quickly diffuse potentially dangerous situations.
It’s also important that we take the time to treat people with respect. I believe that you have to give respect before you can receive it.
I’m not a confrontational person, I’ve never had to use my baton or tear gas, instead I prefer to talk to take the time to talk to people and diffuse a situation with conversation.
The hardest part about working in custody is the many roles we have to play.
We’re police officers. We’re social workers. We’re carers.
Once I had someone brought into custody who I’d seen a few times before. He was a repeat offender and he was known for being really loud and in your face, giving you grief.
This time he was really quiet. The change in character worried me so I called in a health care professional. He was taken to hospital and it turned out he had been assaulted and suffered non-visible, potentially dangerous injuries.
I’ve recently left custody to become a trainer for our Specials and I can honestly say it’s the best role I’ve had in policing (and I’ve had a lot).
The change you witness in people over the duration of their course is incredible – you’re changing people’s lives. I tell the students to take the experience and grow, it will make them into a different but better person.
To see the impact that I have on these people’s lives is amazing, and I’m enjoying giving something back.
I’m due to retire in a few years’ time and I’m planning on coming back as a Special Constable because I’ll miss that feeling of giving someone a good service, no matter who they are.
I’ve recently been part of the Channel 4 series ’24 Hours In Police Custody’.
Some people say that TV is false. But I can honestly see what everything you see on this show is very real. You quickly forget the cameras are there, so it really is a true reflection of us as people and the work we do.
I’m really glad we took part in the show, as I’ve already said I’m proud to be a police officer and I’m pleased that the wider public have been able to see the challenges me and my colleagues have to deal with on a daily basis.
It really hurts to see negative police stories in the media so often; it makes me feel that people don’t appreciate what we do. Hopefully this series will help change that.
Sergeant Andy Rivers has been a police officer for more than 20 years.
He’s spent most of his time with Bedfordshire Police, apart from a short spell at another a force which he describes as a holiday.
He’s done a variety of roles including neighbourhood policing, response, and burglary.
He recently left his role as custody sergeant to become a trainer for the Special Constabulary.