Being ‘Special’

I pulled up to the gates of Kent Police College and turned down the radio before pressing the button and telling the voice ‘I’m here for PST’. The gate trundled open and I drove into the car park, took my kit belt from the passenger seat and walked into the staff safety training building. The first activity of the day was a 15 metre shuttle run bleep test (a mandatory annual fitness test)…I stood on the line wearing a numbered bib with a hint of nervousness as I haven’t had chance to go running since having my second daughter and did not know whether I had regained a reasonable level of fitness yet. Thankfully I passed without any difficulty and headed to the classroom for a discussion about mental health conditions and the national decision making model…

Dusting off my kit belt
Dusting off my kit belt

This might all seem a bit OTT for a school reprographics technician… but I was up early on both days this weekend, driving through the eerie foggy mornings to refresh my handcuffing and restraint techniques, unarmed and armed defence skills and first aid knowledge for my ‘other job’ as a Special Constable (a volunteer police officer). I stepped back from policing for a little while when I had my second child last December as my focus and priorities lay entirely with her and her big sister, but the time has come for me to start doing things I like to do again (beyond watching ‘Frozen’ for the 7,594th time) and so I am returning to fighting crime and, as my eldest daughter would put it, “helping people”.

I applied to be a special in 2007 after working at a sixth form college in a rough part of East London. While I worked at the college one of the students was murdered…he was stabbed through the heart on a petrol forecourt in the early hours of a new year, apparently due to an argument about a mobile phone. He was 18. A couple of months later one of the college security guards was stabbed in the back with an 8 inch kitchen knife at work by one of the students…apparently because he had said something to somebody’s girlfriend which the attacker did not like. He was stabbed with such ferocity that the blade pierced his shoulder blade and stuck there. I instinctively wanted to do something about it. Every day, on my commute to the college, I overheard conversations on the bus between young teenagers in scruffy school uniforms regarding who they wanted to ‘shank’ (stab) that day. They were constantly hurling abuse at the bus driver and trying to force the doors of the bus open to get off between stops wherever they fancied alighting. At the time I didn’t feel in a position to challenge them because, as has happened to others who have challenged such behaviour in the past, they possibly would have attacked me rather than lose face in front of their mates. I felt like I was being sort of indirectly bullied by a bunch of teens on the bus because I was fuming with them inside and getting angrier every time they kicked the door or spat at someone on the stairs, yet I felt like the extent of my disapproval could only be expressed with a scowl in their general direction, rather than giving them both verbal barrels of my fury and, literally, throwing them off the bus like I really wanted to do. I eventually decided to join the Specials as it gave me the chance to challenge such behaviour and to do so with legislation, colleagues, training and equipment to make it slightly less likely that I will end up on the ground in a pool of blood, surrounded by half eaten fried chicken legs, cigarette butts and dog poo.

Since my initial training and my first shift in the Spring of 2008, I have seen and done so many things on and off duty which I am certain I would not have been able to deal with before I joined. These days I have far more confidence and I have learned to be logical alongside my natural tendency to be empathetic and emotional. I have been assaulted on duty, I have seen dead bodies and I have spent many many hours preserving crime scenes in the freezing rain…but I have also been there for people when they were at their most vulnerable; I have reunited people with their stolen property and missing loved ones and I have stopped people from hurting themselves and others. I am proud to be a Special and to be able to work with other fantastic officers…we do our best, despite the negative way in which police officers and police forces are often portrayed in the media.

We are human and I can be building Lego with one daughter and prevented my other daughter from eating said Lego one moment and then, half an hour later, I can be a police officer in uniform attending an incident which could mean life or death to someone. It is a huge responsibility…and the public will always expect us to know exactly how to handle any given scenario. It is often a thankless task but, when a positive result is achieved, I feel an enormous sense of satisfaction which makes it all worthwhile. I am glad that I joined Kent Special Constabulary and, now that I have completed my annual personal safety training, I will soon be back in my uniform wondering what I will deal with today.image

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