Our new ‘Must Read’ section is dedicated to sharing the words of some of the top bloggers from within the emergency services, NHS and armed forces – both past and present.
The blogs are hand-picked by our team but do not necessarily represent the views of Emergency Services News.
Instead, they reflect the experiences of individuals who have first-hand experience of what they are writing about.
Today’s blog is written by a serving
‘This blog isn’t all about my role as an Armed Response Vehicle Officer, it is about how this job makes you feel and the stresses that it can lead to in your personal life. Also about the potential consequences of me pulling the trigger.
Some people can switch off once they leave work. Some people have a very strong mental attitude and can block out a lot of the emotion we endure when doing this job. I’m not like that. I do see myself as mentally strong and can deal with the job at hand, no problem there. However, I’m the sort of person that will self analyse what I have done. Could I have done more? Could I have done it differently? Did everything go well? And if not, why not? I get annoyed with myself if I could of done things better.
The problem with this job is that there is always a different way of dealing with the job. Hindsight can be a bitch sometimes. I can deal with a job and be pleased with how it went but then I think about it later and there is often a way that I could of done things differently and possibly better. One of the issues is that we often arrive at the job with a bit of information and get straight into dealing with it. No real time to formulate a detailed plan of action plus the job is often not as first described. This isn’t so bad in the role that I’m currently in, as there is always a plan, a tactic, a specific role to complete. There are specific plans and tactics to deal with different types of incidents but we might still be very close by when we get the call to deploy so sometimes you can be there with minimal information and instructions.
We see and spend time with the victims, the vulnerable and the abused. We see people when they are at their lowest, when they have just been burgled and lost heirlooms and prised possessions, when they have been beaten or abused, when they have just lost loved ones. This all has an impact on you over time. How can it not? You have to learn to have a very tough core. You develop a coping mechanism. You will see officers at the scene of a road traffic collision or a crime scene and you might see them having a laugh with colleagues. Obviously not when actually dealing with the job itself, but once it’s a matter of scene sitting or waiting for CSI or cars being collected. This is a coping mechanism. Please don’t judge, please don’t see this as a sign of disrespect. I have found that most of my colleagues have the same warped sense of humour and can make a joke about something just after dealing with something horrible. It’s not just the police either. Ambulance crews, I have found, are as bad!
When we are not helping the victims and the vulnerable, we are dealing with the offenders. The burglars, the fighters, the domestic abuse offenders, the shoplifters, the drug addicts, the gang members etc etc. Generally people that hate the police and with no regard for other people’s feelings. People determined to break the rules and willing to get what they want no matter what the consequences are. People that will fight us to get away, that will spit, swear, punch, kick and run. People that will threaten to find us when we are off duty, to find our families and abuse them.
I’ve been out with my family and have seen someone that I have arrested on more than one occasion and I know that they will recognise me if they see me. I have had one male in particular see me and shout me using my surname from across the street! Thankfully I was on my own and he wasn’t looking to cause any trouble. He just thought it funny to call to me and for me to know he recognised me.
I have dealt with jobs that have been upsetting. These are often involving domestic violence or abuse and often repeat victims that you see time after time. I have seen women that have been very badly physically beaten and ones that don’t have a physical mark on them but are being mentally abused and controlled. I have seen children that live in squalor, in cold houses, in filthy clothing and no food in the cupboards.
It’s tough seeing and dealing with all these things. It’s hard not to think about these people when you get home. But this is what we do. We go to work, we go to these incidents, support and help the victims and the vulnerable. We arrest and deal with the offenders, we fight and chase to detain, we get the abuse thrown at us and we carry on.
When these offenders are given a decent prison sentence, when we get the domestic abuse victim into a safe place, the abused and neglected children into a better place, then we get the good feelings. It’s often not a long enough sentence, the victims sometimes go back to the abuser, the children don’t always stay away from the parents but that’s beyond our control.
As a firearms officer, I have to be prepared to pull the trigger if I have to. I know that I would only ever do that if there was nothing else I could do and that someone’s life was in immediate danger if I didn’t. I also know that if I do, then there is a very good chance of that person dying. I have been asked many times how I would cope if that happened. I try to explain it breaking it down into 3 categories: 1, if it’s a terrorist that is killing others, then I don’t think I would lose much sleep about shooting them. I’m not suggesting it wouldn’t effect me at all but it’s an easy one to justify in my head. 2, An armed gang member/criminal that I have to shoot – they choose to carry a firearm, they choose that level of criminality, they choose to put me in a position that I have to pull the trigger. I could cope with that too. Not as easily as the terrorist but ultimately it was their choices in life that put me in front of them. 3, The teenager paid to carry the firearm for the gang member. They panic and take out the gun and point it towards me. I’m fully justified in taking my shot but would be harder to deal with mentally.
As well as dealing with the fact that I may shoot someone and end their life, there is the investigation into my actions that will follow. I will be taken away from the scene along with any of my colleagues that witnessed what happened or were involved. Our weapons taken away, our clothing taken away, legal advisers and federation reps appointed. There will be senior ranking officers around. A short written account will be required before we can leave. And all this within hours of the incident.
These investigations could last for days, weeks, months or even years. There are cases where armed officers have been investigated years after the event. One officer was investigated for murder, years after he had shot someone. He was found not guilty at court but had to endure the trial and all the issues and emotions that brings up. It’s not just the officer that will go through the pressure and strain. Family, loved ones, colleagues will all be feeling the strain too.
This is a snapshot of what the officers will be faced with throughout their career. There are real pressures and stress and I’ve not even discussed the dangers we face!
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