Ok... so I've decided to actually write a blog after being on the blogging periphery for a couple of years. I first heard about blogging after stumbling across the excellent 'Policeman's Blog' a while ago when someone printed a post about detectives, and put it on the wall of our writing room. I have absolutely no intention of making this thing my life's work, nor will it be updated 8 times a day due to the ever decreasing number of rest days I get and the fact that I still have to do my fair share of the housework! I will be posting some stories about things I've dealt with and people I've met, things I generally consider to be both good and crap about The Job, occasionally commenting about other blogs and things I find interesting about life in general.
Firstly though, the blog name - Sheepdogs & Wolves. It is more than a passing nod to the work and thoughts of Psychology Professor Lt. Col (ret'd) Dave Grossman and I use it here as an acknowledgment to the excellent work he has done, and also to those he writes about. I first heard about his work when I read his first book 'On Killing' about 10 years ago which sought to understand and explain the psychological damage that combat and the act of killing has caused men and women through the ages, but more specifically since science and conditioning was used in training after the massive casualties experienced on all sides during the Great War.
As an Army Brat I've been subject to military life as a dependant and experienced the many things, both good and bad, that this life offers, such as travel across Europe and living with people from many many cultures, to being raised mostly by my mum and 'The wives club' and not actually getting to know who my dad truly was (or indeed how bloody funny he actually is!!) until he retired from the Army when I was around 18. Both sides of my family have a long military history in all the Services and all the major wars that the UK have been involved in since the Great War, and naturally I was always steering towards the Military career path. My Dad was an instructor for a great deal of his career and I spent quite a few weekends on the ranges with him and out camping.
I found the methods of training and why they actually work quite interesting and stumbled across Dave Grossman's first book a few years later. I eventually found my way into a Police career instead of the military, and having joined a county force I later found myself in The Met, to experience the considerable contrast in scale of just about everything I had dealt with before.
I was pointed towards Dave Grossman's 2nd book 'On Combat' by the esteemed PC David Copperfield who undoubtedly read it as part of his required reading before moving off to work in Canada. On Combat is a study on the psychological and physiological effects of extreme stress and combat that the Armed Forces and the emergency services experience through the very nature of their work. I would absolutely urge anyone in The Job to buy this book and read it, there is a reason that it is required reading in most Police Forces in the US and other countries, and that is because it is brilliant. It is a bit American from the 'warrior perspective' but if you can get over that bit then you'll find his studies and findings extremely interesting.
Dave Grossman looks at all the various factors that contribute to extreme stress levels such as sleep deprivation, hunger, training and a lack of understanding about how to deal with the psychological aftermath of incidents. The latter is all too common in the UK Police as it simply is not seen as a priority - we just get on with the job at hand and deal with it. The book goes into great depth about perceptual distortions, memory recall, breathing exercises, coping mechanisms and debriefing strategies to be enable the reader to handle the different jobs/incidents that we deal with. It has also helped me with a couple of things I have been through too, which was a welcome bonus!
One of Dave Grossman's observations is regarding the differences between the mindset of Police and military personnel, anyone remotely interested or active in trying to help other people and prevent criminals from prospering, and those who happily sit back and live their lives in ignorant bliss. He suggests that there are 3 different mindsets to consider, and the best way to understand their differences is to classify them as Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves.
The Sheep go about their lives, vaguely aware that the Wolves exist, hoping that they never have to actually see or encounter one. There are considerably more Sheep than Wolves and the vast majority will live out their days having never seen one, although most will know another sheep that has had such misfortune, but they're not really too bothered, as long nothing happens to them. The Wolves prey on the Sheep, occasionally picking one or two off here and there, usually when it's dark so the majority of the flock don't know about it. The Wolves tend to lurk away in the shadows so the Sheep don't notice them, although they have no problem coming out in the open every now and then as they know the Sheep won't really do anything to stop them if they scare them enough.
The Sheepdogs however, know that the Wolves exist, they know where they live, sleep, eat and play. They know that the Wolves will prey on any Sheep, but that they prefer the smallest, weakest of the Sheep who can do nothing to protect themselves, and the Sheepdogs hate the Wolves for it. The Sheepdogs however, have a bit of a problem. As much as they want to protect the Sheep, they tend to look a bit like Wolves, and the Sheep don't really like that, and a few don't trust them because of it.
The Sheepdogs also serve to remind the Sheep that Wolves exist - something they would rather ignore and forget. Most of the Sheep know that the Sheepdogs aren't Wolves and whilst most tolerate, a few welcome them, as long as they never have to actually deal with one. The few remaining older Sheep know that the Sheepdogs are around for a reason and like to see them, because most have seen or experienced over the years what the Wolves can do if there are no Sheepdogs to help them. They also know that the Sheep can become a Sheepdog with the right attitude and a bit of training but the majority of the Sheep don't like to think that they could ever become something that looks like a Wolf and so they distance themselves from the thought.
The Sheepdogs accept that most of the Sheep don't really like them or want them around, but they hang around on the outskirts of the flock anyway because they know all too well what the Wolves will do if they didn't bother. The Sheepdogs try and walk through and speak to the Sheep, to reassure them that they will do everything they can to keep the Wolves away, but still the Sheep are wary of them.
Every now and then the Wolves come and the Sheepdogs try to fend them off, most of the time the Wolves leave after seeing the Sheepdogs, but occasionally there'll be one or two Wolves that think they can take the Sheepdogs on and they'll have a go. The Sheep will see the fight between the Wolves and the Sheepdogs and it scares them, with teeth and claws everywhere, it serves to remind most of them that the Sheepdogs can be just as vicious as the Wolves (if not more so) and that they were right to keep a distance from them.
Even though hardly any Sheep get involved in the melee, most will look on and continue to not trust the Sheepdogs, a few of the Sheep who are saved by the Sheepdogs will be happy as they realise how close they came to becoming supper to the Wolves but they'll mostly keep it to themselves as they know the rest of the Sheep don't like to hear too much about it because it scares them. One or two of the Sheep might get injured by the Wolves despite the best efforts of the Sheepdogs, a few will occasionally blame the Sheepdogs for not protecting them enough, some will blame the Sheepdogs for their injuries after they had stepped in to protect them and fought with the Wolves on the Sheep's behalf in the first place.
Despite this though, the Sheepdogs continue to try and protect the flock, all too aware that the Sheep don't really like them or want them around, no matter how often they try and tell them that the Wolves are about and that the Sheepdogs are there to try and help them. The Wolves included people such as Billy Burglar, Tommy Twocker, Roger Rapist or Darren the drunken friday night fighter.
So, Sheepdogs & Wolves it is then. I hope I can help shed some light on why we do the things that we do, why we continue to try and protect the flock against ever increasing pressure and bureacracy from the Council of Sheep, and why I absolutely love Paramedics, but more on that later.