Reflections on a 30 year career

If I was me now, 30 years ago, submitting my application to join the police, I’d tell myself this:

Age is just a number. It’s ok to be the youngest on the team because in a department it’s what you do that matters. One day you’ll be the oldest, the most experienced, and you’ll be the one being told ‘I wasn’t born when you joined!’ And in a blink it will be over!

Policing is a family, tied together across county, country and continents. The blue line; that symbol of pride and often sorrow. Like all families, you will love them, be frustrated by them, sometimes be disappointed, share the good times and celebrations and at all times you will have a sense of belonging. It’s an eternal tie.

You will learn a different language, a code. Phonetics, acronyms, ethics and this, just do the right thing. Sometimes you will get instruction and sometimes you will just know. Have courage and conviction in your decision making. Your conscience will be on your shoulder guiding you and shaking off the doubting voices.

For the public, the scale will be from love to hate and everything in-between. The drunk who wants to fight you in the middle of the night, the drugged driver who blames you for the eventuality that no license means no job.

For the shoplifter, the burglar, the rapist, the murderer… because you brought them to face trial for the crimes they committed, they will think it’s your fault their liberty is gone. But remember you are doing this for victims: you are not judge or jury, just presenting the facts with impartiality, without favour.

For every hater, there will be the grateful and those who will show the sincerest of emotion. The mother whose child you found, the abused, – be it sexual, physical or emotional – whose hand you have held and been with them at the start, the middle or the end of their journey to safety and justice. Maybe being there at their life changing moment. And with the dying, the last voice they hear and those whose voice you represent.

It is an honour and a privilege. Don’t ever forget the words of the oath.

You hold the office of constable as a custodian for your community so treat it with respect, with reverence and never abuse or take it for granted. Enjoy the moments of fun and laughter and the friendships made with your fellow joiners as the date will be forever etched on your heart.

The Sergeants and Inspectors you will remember always.; those you admire, the role models, those who keep their eye out for you and give you that encouraging nudge here and there, especially when the doubts creep in.

Believe in yourself. When you finally realise you can do the job, choose what excites you and where you excel, be it the investigator that examines every detail, the communicator to negotiate and influence in an interview room or in a crisis situation, a leader with skills to develop and nurture those following or whatever area of policing makes you really tick. The opportunities are endless.

Never be afraid of change. It’s the most certain thing in policing. Nothing stands still. It may go back a bit to go forward at times, but it never stops evolving. It should never stop. Society and the world changes. There are different crimes being committed, changes in our communities, the languages spoken, new cultures to embrace, the technological advances and the generational differences. Grasp it all – just go with it but never forget who you are, your values and always be true to yourself.

There will be difficulties; the detractors, the ones that say we are doomed, the ones always looking back through rose tinted spectacles about the good old days, the ones that are jealous, or make up untruths to try and pull you down.

Just rise above it and let it make you stronger and more determined to get to your destination.

Don’t have a plan, just go with the flow. You will find the path – sometimes a country road that meanders through your career and occasionally take the motorway to speed it up.

Time served does not mean it’s your right, you have to earn it. Don’t do a job you don’t want to do because it’s for promotion or a portfolio moment – choose the jobs that excite you and that light your passion as that’s where you will shine and make the difference to those around you.

Be a role model. Show policing we need to value those who think different, look different from each other and can inspire those who can then ‘see it to be it!’

And don’t be offended when people tell you ‘you don’t look like a police officer!’ Because there should not be a type – just someone who cares, someone who will be there when all others have walked away as you go towards that danger or difficulty.

Have courage. Not just with those where you are faced with knife wielding moments of violence or threats you never contemplated seeing, hearing or being part of, but in those moments where you see wrong, you hear wrong and there is no challenge. Give a voice where discrimination or injustice is taking place and think not of your career prospects or how it looks, just make sure you can sleep at night with your decisions.

It’s a privilege to be behind the checkered tape. It may not be pleasant; you will see, hear and smell things you will never unsee, unhear or unsmell. But someone has to be there for the dying, the dead and the vulnerable to tell their relatives you did your best, you gave it everything and you were there with compassion and ensured dignity.

Don’t ever be afraid to admit you made a mistake, you did not know something or you needed help to cope with the job. It’s just being human. You may have the uniform, the rank and on your shoulder expectation, but it’s ok to say “I don’t know” or “I need help”.

Give it your heart, your soul, at times your blood, sweat and many tears. It will be a rollercoaster. There will be rewards – not the tangible type, but job satisfaction that money can’t buy.

The feelings of elation and relief, the adrenaline highs, the immense pride. There is no feeling for a detective like getting a charging decision, a ‘comment’ interview, a guilty plea or a guilty verdict or the appreciation from a victim or their family.

People matter more than anything.; both those you serve and those by your side – your colleagues and the lifelong friends you gather on your journey.

Be kind always. This does not mean being soft or a push over. Be compassionate and empathetic, be clear and let others know what you stand for, what you expect and what your values are. Be fair, be consistent and have some fun along the way.

Now put the application in! No one ever said it would be easy but it will be worth it… a job like no other.

Det Supt Mead joined Bedfordshire Police in 1990 and patrolled her home town of Luton before embarking on her Detective career which has spanned 26 years. Liz is currently Head of Crime and Public Protection having worked on several murder, rape, kidnap and serious crime investigations including as a Senior Investigating Officer on the Bedfordshire Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit (BCH MCU). Liz launched Bedfordshire Police’s ‘One Punch Kills’ campaign to raise awareness across Bedfordshire’s schools and communities of the devastating impact one punch can have. Liz has received Judge’s Commendations for her investigative ability and has led the force in cultural change, leadership and ethics.

To apply to join Bedfordshire Police, or find out about the different opportunities available, visit our website.

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