I was very fortunate to have the opportunity recently to be able to spend a day shadowing a police officer working in Norwich city centre. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect but had been told to wear smart casual clothing and comfortable shoes. At the end of the day and some 10 miles later I REALLY appreciated the later!
Obviously I can’t share all the details of what happened during this day but what I have gained permission to do is share my reflections on this time. I hope that these provide an interesting insight into the work of our local constabularies.
- My first shock was when I realised how tolerant I had become of cyclists riding on pavements in the city. So I was surprised when the officer stopped someone and asked them to dismount. I hadn’t even noticed them! This was done politely and the cyclist agreed to dismount and walked off.
- Someone reported they had been approached by a man asking them for money. The man was pointed out, but before the officer went to find them a statement was taken. On the conclusion of this the man had moved on and despite searching most of the nearby streets they could not be found. I wondered whether video statements could be taken more quickly from a smart phone than having to handwrite a statement and get it signed.
- Someone informed us that a lady had tripped and fallen on a badly laid paving stone. They clearly expected the officer to take charge of the situation. Both looking after the individual who had fallen and reporting the dangerous paving. The lady was fine and did not wish for any assistance. What was extremely disappointing that when trying to report the dangerous paving at City Hall we were told to take a ticket and wait with the general public, despite the officer clearly being on duty. I was saddened that council staff were not able to be more flexible and support other public agencies. I was impressed that the officer decided to phone the issue in during her lunch break in order to save time.
- I got a definite sense that police officers are seen as a visible support for a range of issues and that the public are comfortable to approach them. The way in which members of the public were dealt with was always considerate and polite.
- It was very interesting to get a different perspective on the introduction of the “legal highs” legislation to that which I have read about in the media. There clearly is a need for this that I have not picked up before and several recent examples were provided of when the new legislation could have been really helpful.
- The liaison with the retail security staff in the stores was evident and they engaged with each other in a respectful and professional manner. The officer was clear as to the requirements for a conviction and this appeared to be understood and respected.
- The officer checked in with a number of people who appeared to be homeless had pitches set up on the pavements. She politely challenged any visible sign of alcohol and this was removed by the individual. The interaction demonstrated a degree of concern for these individuals and their wellbeing, as well as ensuring public order was maintained.
- When we were called to a store by two PCSOs who need the support of a police officer – the interaction with the person apprehended was firm but polite. At numerous stages they were asked to clarify that they understood what had been said to them. The process was clear and respectful. The person potentially had mental and physical health issues so I was impressed that although they were arrested they were not taken into custody, as this clearly empowered them to take responsibility for these issues which otherwise would have been complex to resolve, if in custody. Whilst I could understand the need for the paper work for both the search and arrest it did strike me as a rather dated approach to the need to record these actions.
- When dealing with someone for whom English was obviously not their first language, more time was taken to try to clarify the issues and the implications for them. I was not sure whether they fully understood what they were being accused of but this was not from a lack of trying by the officer. The issue was complicated and they didn’t really seem interested in understanding it just in refuting that they had done anything wrong. I was slightly surprised at the action taken by the store in banning the individual without having gathered sufficient proof of any misdemeanor.
My overall reflections at the end of the day were that I was very impressed with the professionalism and skills of the officer that I spent the day with. Her knowledge of the law was comprehensive, her approach was proportionate and pragmatic. She clearly had the respect of private sector colleagues, as well as the homeless people she sees on a regular basis. I felt that the officer I spent the day with was a credit to her constabulary and I saw several instances of her going beyond what I would have expected of her. She was was approachable and engaged with the public and took time to deal with them in an professional but friendly way. Oh and my feet ached!
What do you think of these insights? Do any of them surprise you?