Friday, 18 April 2008

The Speech

There comes a time after every Police officer has gone through training school that they turn up on day one with their new team. They will find that they'll actually spend more time awake with these people than virtually everyone else in their lives until they eventually find some kind of work/life balance. Most will be aware that they need to prove themselves to their new colleagues, regardless of what experience they have already outside the job or what level of respect they think they have already earned in their few short months.

Within hours of meeting my first team I found myself locked in the back of the new station van, and feeling like a bit of a plank. After making everyone a brew as payment for my foolishness in allowing myself to be locked up, I had my first sit down meeting with my new Sergeant. I'd met him a couple of times whilst at training school, when I moved my kit into my new locker and that morning on my first proper parade briefing. Apart from niceties, we hadn't really had a proper conversation yet. There was considerably more laughter and piss taking at parade than I had come to expect after the 'mock briefings' we had done at training school, but I was soon to learn that 'Sanford in Westshire' was more than a world removed from real policing.

He invited me into his office, closed the door and sat down. After an extremely uncomfortable and piercing stare that felt like it lasted a lifetime he said* -

"Welcome to the team, we've all worked together for a good few years, the guys will look after you if you do your fair share and get stuck in. I only have a few things I want to say to you, they are basically my ground rules and everyone else on the team knows them and follows them so I'm not asking anything of you that I wouldn't do myself or ask anyone else to do. First and foremost, forget everything you learned at training school with the exception of the law, you'll come to find which pieces of legislation you'll need to know inside out and which ones you'll never use but the statutes are just extra tools in the box, we'll teach you how to be a Policeman.

This is a hard city with lots of extremely hard people in it and we have to Police some of the things we deal with equally as hard. Watch your colleagues and learn, if you try any of that role play stuff, you'll end up getting your head kicked in and I'm not a big fan of the vending machine tea at A&E. If we give some of these people an inch then they will take a mile, if they don't do what we're telling them to then they get nicked, no second or third warnings, no compromises. 90% of the rest of the people are honest and hardworking and expect nothing but honesty and courtesy in return, but always watch your back.

Always keep one ear on the radio, listen to what jobs are coming out, listen to where people are getting sent to and where your colleagues are checking people. Contrary to popular belief things rarely just happen and if we're being sent to the same addresses or the same pubs then something is going to kick off sooner or later. I will occasionally ask you who's doing what and where, if you don't know then I'll want a bloody good explanation. As you'll come to hear, when something goes wrong and someone needs assistance you're only really going to get a road, shop or pub name and I expect you to know roughly which one it is so we can get there and help them out.

I want you to volunteer for bodies and get stuck in, we have all been in your position before and I know full well how much evidence you need to get to have your PDP (personal development profile) signed off, your tutor will help you get that in no time, but even if you've dealt with something before I expect you to put up for it if you're around, and I will know if you are.

Be nosey, that's what you get paid for, if you don't like the look of someone then talk to them, if you're still not happy then spin (search) them. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up for a reason, you just won't know what that reason is to start with, so do some digging and find out.

These are my three rules of Coppering, follow them at everything you do and you won't go far wrong.

1) Believe no one. Whether intentionally or not, people lie and you'll hardly ever hear 100% of the truth from anyone as most won't want to get themselves in trouble, even if they never actually will. Ask questions and you'll soon get the answers you need.

2) Assume nothing. Never take anything for granted, especially as the quiet ones are usually the ones with the blade or psychotic tendency that you never saw coming.

3) Check everything. If you're the OIC (officer in the case) of a job you need to know it inside out as you'll look like a fool in the box if you don't know something, also never assume that someone looked in the bin in the garden, they might not have, if you're unsure check it.

Last but not least, I take my tea white with one sugar and preferably with a custard cream or two if there's some in the box. See you later on in the bins (custody), have a good shift"

Believe no one, assume nothing, check everything. The 3 rules have saved my neck - quite literally - on more than a few occasions, both out on my tod and in court!!


*obviously not verbatim given it was a few years ago, but the the main bulk is there!


Steven said...

Good stuff. Definitely one to cut out and stick on the wall.

It does concern me a bit though that the recruitment or training programme doesn't seem to really reflect the realities of policing.

I've just come through the police selection process and start next month but it concerns me that more than anything else I was assessed almost entirely on my attitude to eqaulity and diversity. That's great but I don't see how it assesses my potential to catch and lock up criminals. I hope I'm wrong.

I know the political trend is for diversity but I'm not sure it will really help me become an effective copper. We'll see.

Jez said...


four posts in, and all are bloody good! Great Read! I really look forward to your posts..

Keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

I will have to remember those rules when I transfer to a H/O Force in the not to distant future (I hope).

XTP said...

I never really had anything like that I must confess. I did have a skipper say to me "You look that part. That's half the battle. You'll be fine". I'm fortunate enough to be 6'3" which counted for a lot in those days! Must admit, though - I've said similar things to probies a couple of times since I got 20 in and felt like I had a bit of service. They've all taken it as it was meant, I think. At least to my face they did anyway! People learn pretty fast on Borough, though, don't they? Even nowadays, a lot still depends on your supervisors. A weary skipper or 2 and you're f#@%ed. Mine happen to be excellent at the mo and the guv'nor is a top man. Won't be the case in a year or so, though. Enjoy it while it lasts, I say, and make the most of your R/T car posting!

P.S. Ashford PTC was it?

P.P.S. Great start BTW. Good to hear the perspective from a fellow MCM

Anonymous said...

The golden rules of Coppering, perfect rules for all aspects of the life in the concrete Jungle.

Anonymous said...

All good advice. And may i reiterate, for the novices reading this, DON'T CRITISIZE YOUR SENIOR PARTNER IN FRONT OF CROOKS!

Not only will doing this undermine what your partner is doing, it also tells all the MOP watching that he/she is doing something wrong. Just try and explain your actions, when the complaint comes, if your partner was telling everyone that you were wrong. It isn't easy, and can land someone, who was doing everything right, in the sh!t.

If you disagree talk afterwards!


Metcountymounty said...

xtp - the only downside I've found to being 6'3" is just by turning up you're accused of being an overbearing bully, and you're usually the first one they want to have a go at because you're the tallest!!

As for the other bit... no comment!!

Anonymous said...

... fine plattitudes for someone who shouts in a public forum that: "..the public are twats and whinge.."

Ripping off Terry Pratchett now I see. Was this Sergeant of youres called Sam Vines by any chance?

Matt said...

Good stuff. Looking back to when I joined, I wish someone had said the same sort of thing to me, I remember that I was told " mouth shut, eyes and ears open, oh , and never treat this joke as a job". Not quite as inspiring, but it worked and the last bit still does.

Anonymous said...

"You've got two ears for listening but only one mouth to talk with."

"Forget training school".

"You're being paid to be a suspicous nosey b****d, there's nothing wrong with that".

Anonymous said...

Great post.

I thought I said a similar thing to a pretty new officer, approx. 8months service, when he came to our team.
However the issue I had and still having was that I was only acting sergeant when I spoke to him. He appears to have ignored the advice and is doing the minimal to get by, ie not being pro-active, not interested in anything that might require an investigation, only giving warnings for traffic offences. It appears he wants to drive fast, go to the fights or action jobs, but then only wants to be the arresting officer for the easy arrests, anything else, he goes and speaks to other people, rather than the offenders.

Therefore I have written in his training book about his attitude and motivation.
And that's the main problem, he does the minimum to get by and satisfy his training requirements, but no more.
I'm now in the position of just leaving it, not wanting to waste my breath and effort to try to resolve or modify his behaviour, and hoping after his first year he's not posted to my station/team.

Is it because I'm on nightwork and just generally down and when we are on day shifts, i can try again.

Any advice?

Qld Copper

Happy Met Copper said...

There is a reason why training in the met for 18 weeks was called Planet Hendon.

It is nothing like the real world.

10 weeks on street duties really sorted me out. Watching my instructor on my first day get a grip on someone and tell them that if they didn't effing cooperate then they'd get effing nicked was a real eye opener.

I had a similar speech from my first Inspector who added that the best armour you have is your uniform, people don't know whether you're an old sweat or straight out of training, they only see the badge, when you deal with people look them in the eye and if they go to hit you make sure you get in first.

Metcountymounty said...

anon 1221, haven't actually read a Terry Pratchett book so in short no. Real life, deal with it!

bordersblue said...

You can apply those three rules to immigration and customs work as well, definitely.