Making a difference to where I live

ACC photoAfter a career in policing spanning almost 27 years, Sharn Basra has been appointed as temporary Assistant Chief Constable for Bedfordshire Police. Here he talks about the endless opportunities he’s had within the force which have led to where he is today, and why he would encourage others to take one of the many routes into a career in policing…

“Like so many others, I joined policing to keep people safe, make a difference, and lock up baddies. For me it was important to do this in my home county, Bedfordshire, so that I knew I was making a real difference to where I, my family, and my friends live.

“It may be a cliché to say that policing is a varied job but it is true. Once you are in the force there are so many different pathways your career can take. I spent six years as a bobby on the beat and then another six years as a detective constable, working to solve all manner of crimes.

“I’ve also spent time as the head of our public protection unit, helping to oversee the protection of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, as well being an area commander for the south of the county, and head of crime for the whole force.

Sharn then and now“That’s not to mention the additional duties such as policing football matches for Luton Town, and being part of the policing of major events such as Luton Carnival and Bedford River Festival.

“But for me the most rewarding role of my career to date was working as a senior investigating officer for the major crime unit. You cannot explain the feeling when a family member of someone who has been needlessly taken away from them gives you a hug to say thank you for convicting their killer.

“Throughout my career I have been lucky to work with so many people in so many different roles, I’ve made some fabulous friends and learnt a lot along the way, and most importantly of all I’m making a positive contribution to where I live.

IMG-20191117-WA0000“It is without a doubt the best job ever and I would not change anything. If I had my time again I would still be a cop – policing may have changed a lot and the pressures today are very much different to the ones I faced when I first signed up, but it really is such a rewarding career. Of course there are tough days – but you get the training and the support network you need to manage those.

“After almost 27 years in policing, I’m still lucky enough to love every day of what I do, and now I am responsible for the day to day delivery of policing for my home county – how cool.”

Find out more about all the latest recruitment opportunities currently available with Bedfordshire Police.



“Be yourself and you’ll go far”

On International Women’s Day, Hannah Wilkinson, who was recently appointed as the head of the Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) for the eastern region, has blogged about her role.
She is the first ever police civilian to take on this role.

“I started my career in policing in 2000, working as an Intelligence Analyst for Hertfordshire Constabulary. I thought I’d do the role for a couple of years then get a business role in the city, but somehow 19 years have gone by and I’m still here!

I’ve spent a lot of my career working in serious and organised crime and covert policing, joining the ROCU in 2014, so I’m excited to have now been appointed as the head of the unit – a role that has previously only ever been carried out by officers.

ROCUs work closely alongside forces, as well as national agencies, which means the reach and impact our teams can have on serious and organised crime is huge.

I’m looking forward to using my experience and ideas to drive our ROCU forwards, so that we can better protect the public, and I’m lucky to have an excellent team full of professional people.

Not having policing powers does not impact on my ability to take on this role, and I think it’s really important that we look at modernising workforces and be creative about where we look for skilled people.

I’m honoured to be given the chance to undertake this role and really appreciate the positive support I’ve had from across the whole police community.

This week I attended the Senior Women in Policing conference, along with several colleagues from the forces in our region. My own experiences tell me that diversity is valued in the police across all categories. We need a mix of different people and different views to generate the best ideas.

While there are fewer women senior leaders in policing than men, we have taken great strides forwards and the heads of both the National Crime Agency and the Metropolitan Police are women, and I believe women really are valued within policing.

So if you’re a woman and you’re thinking of applying for a job in policing, whether in a civilian capacity or as an officer, I’d say go for it. Be yourself, don’t feel you have to conform, be authentic be courageous, and you’ll go far.


“I have to make decisions on a daily basis which are literally a matter of life and death”

When you think of the word Oscar you might imagine a lavish film ceremony, but in the policing world that word means something completely different.

I am one of Bedfordshire Police’s Oscar Ones and work in the Force Contact Centre which answers all the incoming 999 and 101s calls, from bike thefts to suspected terrorist incidents. I am an Inspector and have been working as a police officer for 28 years now and would say this is probably the most challenging job I have done.  I have to make decisions on a daily basis which are literally a matter of life and death. My job is to review all incidents coming in that require a police response  and balance the severity of those incidents against the number of police officers we have available in the force. To put an Oscars slant on it, we are continually assessing which jobs will go into the nominations categories and the incidents with the greatest risk will naturally get an immediate response. 

Together with my team, I have to decide what level of risk is known or can be anticipated and this will determine whether we send an officer, make an appointment, record and investigate the crime or give advice.  In Bedfordshire Police, we use a system known to us as THRIVE which helps us to identify risk and vulnerability. We consider the initial crime investigation and our contact centre staff are quick to help response officers with a range of tasks from vehicle recovery to working with CCTV to capture a wanted criminal. 

The police play a leading role in many mental health scenarios where vulnerability has been identified. It is a fine balancing act between police, health and social care partnerships and there is still a great deal of knowledge and understanding required.  Our work has migrated into areas; child sexual exploitation, modern day slavery, terrorism and at the same time we are trying to provide the best possible service in the sensitive areas such as domestic abuse and missing people.

THRIVE is a really good way for us to look at incidents and provide a rationale for the decisions Oscars have to make. In my time doing the Oscar One  job there’s never been an case where I’ve thought I should have made a different decision.  I carry a huge personal responsibility not to put someone’s life in danger. There are often many different ways to cut the pie and I am always reviewing incidents with colleagues to make sure I have thought through all possible options and outcomes.   I often have to cross my fingers and hold my nerve .  A few minutes can sometimes be a very long time when we are trying to find someone.  I am only human and sometimes circumstances are a little too close to home, I am conscious of previous incidents where some dreadful things have happened.  A notable example of this is the death of my friend and colleague PC Jon Henry who was fatally stabbed while on duty in 2007. I subconsciously think of him every time I deploy an officer to a knife incident.

We deal with around 1,000 101 calls and 250 999 calls a day on average, with a very small team answering and dealing with these calls. As well as the call handlers taking the calls, we have radio agents dispatching officers to jobs across the county and radio support officers supporting the agents by making call backs, keeping relatives informed, recovering vehicles and calling out other emergency services. Oscar One is assisted by two Oscar Twos who are worth their weight in gold.  If the Oscar Twos don’t know something about the contact centre then it’s probably not worth knowing!  They do everything from sorting out IT problems to authorising vehicle pursuits. 

Oscar Ones are Inspectors and have an operational background.  We are the ones who make the decision on whether to deploy a firearms unit. Oscar Twos have a background in the force contact centre and  often have experience as Special Constables or have been dispatchers. We work very well with each other and our teams.  To put a movie spin on our role, some days are high energy and feel like action movies, some days are a mix of comedy, horror, mystery and drama.  I am rather partial to a superhero film and we get to play a bit part in those too from time to time.

I still look forward to coming into work each day which shows there is something special about working for Bedfordshire Police, this is tantamount to the great team spirit of the force, where we work to do the right thing every day.  

Inspector Vicky Miller