So I'm finishing my probation. Rookie/Sprog/Probie/Student Officer, whatever you call it - I am no longer.
I first joined the police family 7 years ago (I hate that term but it's the easiest way to deflect criticisms of 'You haven't got 7 years in').
I was 18 and far from an angel. I had some brushes with the police but never for anything serious and I obviously had no criminal record.
It was 2008 and I was wrangling with my decision 2 years prior to discharge from the army during basic training due to a relationship issue and immaturity at dealing with home sickness.
My school friends were all off to University but I had identified that whilst I have an ability, and indeed a thirst for learning, this wasn't a route I wished to go down.
I was working in retail banking and I was causing stirs there. I was not in any 'potential' scheme yet had gone from a cashier to the sales team in a year and at the ripe age of 18 had already acted up as the cash manager for a week on one occasion and the sun branch manager in two occasions. Noses were put out of joint by this as some staff had remained as cashiers for 15 years without the same opportunities. Whilst acting as cash manager I had one cashier refuse to do as asked but I didn't let it bother me too much as she was as green with jealousy as could be.
However, I had recently been passed over for a promotion due to a girl transferring in who was on a graduate scheme and I also lost out on a course to another graduate scheme member. I had transferred branches at the recommendation of the area manager for my own development however it actually stifled my development. The previous 'old school' branch manager who had seen my potential and rewarded it with development opportunities and the odd pub lunch was replaced with a manager who was only 5 years my senior but a graduate and who openly stated she didn't see what was so special about me.
I was gradually managed, managed and managed some more. Pub lunches were forbidden for me. I wasn't part of the clique here. I was given a higher sales target than for my grade without any pay incentive but denied the chance to do as much customer sales work as I was used to - instead I was to 'provide leads' for the sales team. One day - when I brought in a particularly lucrative shares portfolio transfer from a customer I had been building a relationship with over a few weeks - it was taken from me. Not only did this annoy me, it damaged my already dwindling sales figures taking me out of a good bonus zone for the first time.
I was incensed. I rang my area manager who told me he was taking a promotion and that I should speak to the incoming area manager. Well, suffice to say his successor was a 'You're 18 get over it' kind of manager.
I stewed. I stewed some more.
I typed my resignation up on the computer, walked into my manager and handed it in. She had won.
I worked my notice and left to the prospect of unemployment.
Handily enough I started a new temp call centre job on the same money within 5 days and at the same time interviewed for a recruitment consultancy role which gave good sales commission.
During my downtime at the call centre (I was working overtime meaning 12 hour shifts 6 days a week and a shift a week at my dads pub which all in all brought me a tidy take home of £650 a week!) I started looking at other jobs. I was awaiting a callback about the recruitment consultancy job and was diversifying my search.
The company 'launch' overtime at the call centre dried up after a month. I went back to 8 hour Monday to Friday work and my take home pay plummeted to about £320 a week.
A close family member is a copper and I had always watched the Bill thinking it seemed like a good laugh. My interactions with the police over my youth hadn't been all good but I had the luck of meeting several really good coppers who kept my faith in the police alive.
I saw an advert for BTP PCSOs. I asked my family member and he said from what he knew BTP PCSOs were a bit more involved than normal ones. I researched BTP and was actually amazed at how much they did - I was always aware they existed from my days travelling to Arsenal as a youth. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a PC so I threw in an application. I kept having to give more information and get forms filled but this was no more involved than any other interview process I had been through so I persevered.
I went for an interview and assessment which caused me no issues and then I heard nothing.
I received a call from the recruitment consultants. I met a manager where we negotiated a salary package. It was a novel experience negotiating a package. I did my darnedest to make it seem like it was totally what I expected, but I was in honesty amazed. I felt elated to leave with an agreement for £23,000 basic for Mon-Friday 37.5 hours week, my annual train travel paid for and a bonus scheme which would pay me up to £45,000 for hitting target and then uncapped percentage on anything exceeding the target. Whilst the money on the table was pretty good it also had the appeal of the provision of a small expense account after my 3 month probation was up. Pub lunches would be back on the cards.
I couldn't believe my luck. I was 18 and I was living the good life! My friends at uni were eating beans on toast and I would soon be living the hustle and bustle life.
I was given a start day the following Monday away (1 week notice at call centre) to meet my sales manager where I would sign my contract and be inducted.
I handed my notice in at the call centre and they stated that i didn't have to work my notice if I was happy to take my holiday owed. I had plenty of cash in the bank so I took the offer and was escorted off the premises.
All was well and simple. Until I got a phone call. It was a lady named Selima. She was calling from the British Transport Police and she wondered if I might be available to start at short notice the following Monday. The same Monday I was going to start my high flying job.
I asked how long I had to reply. She kindly gave me until the end of the day. I rang probably everyone in my phone book asking their opinion. In my own mind the sensible decision was to take the recruitment consultancy - the hours, the pay, the progression, the status, the social life...it was the clear choice for an 18 year old who seemed to be on a winning streak in life!
So, predictably with me, I rang Selima back and said yes I'd like to join the BTP!
To this day I don't know why I did. I had certainly watched back to back episodes of Rail Cops to learn more. I accosted our own Headset 57 on several occasions to ask questions about the job. But I can't say that it was my 'dream'. That 'dream' still very much lived, admittedly at the back of my brain, in the army.
A lengthy pack arrived first class within a day or so with contracts and joining instructions and a singlet excel warrant to Tadworth in Surrey.
I rang the recruitment consultancy and explained my position. I was thanked for ringing and the manager explained that his wife was a special constable and that she had described the police as a real eye opener. He wished me luck and down the phone went.
The following Sunday I travelled alone to Tadworth rail station with my suitcase and met PC Bob Bartholomew there to get the minibus to Tadworth. In such a short time I was already hooked and absolutely buzzing for the future that awaited me.
7 years of policing later and I look back on that phone call from Selima. I wonder how much I would be earning now as a recruitment consultant in London. What car would I be driving? Would I already have my own home and a tidy mortgage?
Would I say yes again if I went back and took that call again?
You'd better believe it.
This blog post is deliberately NOT particularly police related. It's to remind me and others of what the police is. It's a group of people who all have different backgrounds. Some, indeed many, of us are not in the job that suited us best at the time we joined. Some of us didn't even grow up wanting to be police men and women. Many of us could have enjoyed much better Ts and Cs and possibly a bigger paycheck without risks to our health and even lives.
But talking 7 years after the fact I'm still job pi**ed. Policing has changed for the worse even in my very short time. Pay and conditions worse. Morale (collective) worse. Reputation worse. Stress worse. Officer safety worse. But until those in charge make it unbearable you're all stuck with me and I will continue to throw my enthusiasm in to try and do 'the job' the way I think it should be done.