Det Chief Supt Mead looks back at a thirty year career at Bedfordshire Police, which started patrolling her home town of Luton before embarking on a Detective career.
Liz is retiring from 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.
How do you retire in a pandemic? Where the over whelming feeling is that you should not be leaving, but staying in support of your colleagues?
Not one I can answer, I have offered to stay but it is time for the next chapter. Coronavirus came along and made everything different but the foundations have been set and the contingency plans developed and instigated.
I have worked with the most incredibly dedicated teams to keep the high service of investigating crime and being there for victims, whilst adapting practices, interpreting ever-changing guidelines and making sure all our teams are protected and working as safely as possible. They accept this and go out every day, knowing they are an emergency service, there always has been and always will be an inherent risk in that, especially now.
That’s why I am proud to say I have worked for 30 years with heroes.
In the beginning…
Ask any police officer why they joined the force and more than likely, they will tell give you an answer about wanting to do something worthwhile and something good for the community. Put in basic terms, locking up the bad guys and girls to protect the good.
I have always wanted to be a police officer and was influenced by female cops on the television in the 1980s. From Juliet Bravo in the villages of rural Lancashire to DCI Jane Tennyson, the fictional character in Prime Suspect who certainly sparked my desire to be a murder squad detective. A realisation that at that time, my role models were fictional TV characters, but I do have to thank them for helping me choose my career path and putting me here today.
From the age of 10, I shaped my school days to try and achieve my dream of becoming a police officer.
I attended St John Ambulance for first aid training, took part in the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme and undertook volunteering work; taking all opportunities to enhance my CV for when the moment came to apply.
At college, I was influenced by a law teacher of mine, who planted the seeds that I should look at a career in law, as a solicitor or barrister, so I started a law degree at Middlesex Polytechnic in Hendon. The trouble was every day I was taunted by the Three Towers of the Metropolitan Police Training Centre and I knew after only three months that it was still only policing for me.
I left the course, applied for Bedfordshire Police and the rest is history. They say if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life, pretty true of how I have felt about being a police officer!
On 4 June 1990, I entered this building with a very large suitcase, to put a very small handbag and an even smaller wooden truncheon in it with the rest of my uniform and started my Bedfordshire Police career.
My boyfriend, who is now my husband, my dad and my mum made a bet that I wouldn’t last a year, they said I was too soft. Today, I’m looking back on a thirty-year career. It’s OK to be different in Bedfordshire Police and our differences do make us stronger as a team.
I have Luton on my birth certificate. I am a proud Lutonian and was thrilled to start my career there as a response officer, which included policing Luton Town FC, despite being a Spurs fan – you can’t help where your family originate from!
Those first four years provided me with the foundation, training, and learning from experienced officers and I have made friendships in those years that I still have today. I became a detective constable in Luton CID and worked on all serious crime investigations; from stabbings, to rapes, to robberies and arsons. My CID career was varied and although I did miss the blue lights and the adrenalin rush of being on patrol, the job satisfaction of bringing an offender to justice for a victim was very rewarding.
I also worked as a liaison officer within HMP Bedford investigating crime within the prison, sharing intelligence and information and working in a very different environment. Due to my knowledge of prisons, I worked on the Yarlswood Immigration Detection Centre fire in 2002 where millions of pounds of damage was caused and 80 detainees fled into the night.
I investigated a complex cash for crash fraud investigation, where over £5 million of assets were seized and criminal cases were brought against 45 defendants with the ring leaders being imprisoned and the proceeds of crime act being utilised to remove their criminal funded wealth.
I have worked on over 40 murder investigations and I am a qualified homicide and kidnap senior investigation officer, meaning I can lead these cases and I gained this experience latterly within the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit.
In November 2015, a Channel 4 documentary called ‘One Killer Punch’ aired. This detailed one of my manslaughter investigations – a one punch case in Asda car park in Biggleswade, where two men disagreed over the rights to a disabled car parking space and the consequences were tragic with the victim losing his life. Working on the documentary, and thereby highlighting the dangers of a momentary loss of judgement and the throwing of one punch, was one of my greatest policing achievements.
On promotion I left the Major Crime Unit to a role on the Public Protection Team, which was a very steep learning curve. I worked closely with our partners in the local authorities and health dealing with child abuse cases including sexual and physical abuse, domestic abuse, rape offences, child sexual exploitation, missing people and much more. This job covered all bases and has been my most challenging role to date. An officer cannot go home until these children or vulnerable adults are safe and this is an area of policing where our involvement has grown significantly over the last years, especially with the increase in reporting of child sexual abuse cases.
As well as the day job I have had other opportunities to learn new skills and to deal with more niche areas of policing including hostage and crisis negotiation and managing disaster victim identification. This is a local, national and international commitment and seeks to repatriate bodies with their families where there have been crimes, terrorist atrocities, airplane crashes and natural disasters, like the tsunami. Challenging work, but again the teamwork on these cases is inspirational when dealing with the most tragic of cases involving the loss of human life.
In January 2018, I landed my dream job as a detective – head of crime. These were challenging times with resource and funding constraints but what a team to work with! Professional and compassionate detectives and investigators achieving phenomenal results, taking firearms and drugs off of the streets of Bedfordshire through Boson, and bringing back a burglary team – Op Maze.
In July 2019 when I thought that I had no more policing challenges to undertake, I was provided the opportunity to be the DCS of Crime and the Public Protection Unit (PPU). A great honour and an amazing place to end my career, combining my love of investigating serious and complex crime with PPU and renewing the partnership links from my PPU days as a DCI and with the selfless detective and investigators ensuring that every child and vulnerable adult they come in to contact with are safe and protected.
How policing has changed…
Technology has changed the world of policing, there are more policies and procedures and more scrutiny with the likes of social media. Accountability has been introduced but when you look at the actual profession, it dates back centuries and Sir Robert Peel’s principles still hold true today.
As long as you can sleep at night with the decisions you have made and know you did your absolute best, you won’t go far wrong, for me policing is about common sense, valuing everyone, protecting our vulnerable and doing the right thing always – especially when no one is watching!
Why you should join…
If I was me now, 30 years ago, submitting my application to join the police, I’d tell myself this:
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.
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.
Now put the application in! No one ever said it would be easy but it will be worth it… it is definitely a job like no other.
The best thing about working in the force…
I think it is said about Bedfordshire that the best thing is our small size and the family feel it engenders. People make an organisation and I have worked alongside the very best, the most professional and at times the funniest people, policing humour is so very special!
I was born in Luton, went to Redborne Upper School in Ampthill and have lived and worked in the county my whole life. I am Bedfordshire to the core, it’s a hidden gem of a county, which has been an absolute privilege to serve.
I have had the most amazing time as a police officer, there have been highs and lows, joy and sadness, fun and frustrations. There are things that cannot be unseen and the stories of the victims will always stay with me, but I feel privileged to have made a difference when people have been at very rock bottom and changed their life by doing my job.
If you are looking for a career like no other with endless opportunities for progression, join Bedfordshire Police. Take a look at our current opportunities at www.bedfordshire.police.uk/careers