Leaving the army was a daunting prospect. I served in the fifth battalion and achieved everything I had hoped to and more in my time in the army. I was lucky enough to complete the most in demand training courses, but I wanted to challenge myself further.
I wanted a job with excitement and adrenaline and one where I can see my friends and family after a shift and ultimately end up home and in my own bed. Policing felt like a perfect fit and is opening so many opportunities.
I joined Bedfordshire Police in 2021 just as the Covid pandemic was coming to an end and am now at the end of my two-year probationary period having completed my NVQ.
I chose to work in Bedfordshire for several reasons. I was familiar with the area and the types of crime it has. Also, I knew I wanted to work in Luton from the start, mainly due to the wide range of incidents and the frequency of them as well as it having a very diverse community. As a kid watching ‘Traffic Cops’ the best chases and pursuits were in Luton, and I would be lying if I said this wasn’t a contributing factor to my decision!
Luckily, I had several old school friends who were already officers in Bedfordshire. They assured me that Luton would keep me busy. I was told if you can work as an officer in Luton, you can work anywhere in the country.
Unlike many ex-service members who join the job, I took no time off between leaving the army and joining the police. On the Sunday I was a soldier and on Monday I started my police officer classroom-based training. I found the course to be very manageable, the basics of a disciplined uniformed service were the same. Basic transferable skills were obvious from the start, such as polishing boots, ironing kit, drill, etc. It goes without saying that there is a lot to learn, simply finishing training isn’t the end of the learning phase. I believe I learnt more in my first week or two being out on the streets than I did in all the classroom-based learning.
In hindsight I would strongly advise taking some time to ‘normalise’ before starting training. It’s a daunting thing leaving the military and I perhaps underestimated how much life would change for me in those first few months.
The culture was probably the biggest change for me. Policing culture is different from military culture. The need and expectation to remain 100 per cent professional when on and off duty was not something that had been expected of me previously. There is a lot more emphasis on the public view of police officers than there ever was in the military.
The core values and standards are the same, however when you go home at the end of the shift you are very much still a police officer. Your friends and family will see you as such and it often occurs that you will have to act in the role when not officially ‘on duty’.
There is a far greater emphasis too on speaking out when you’re struggling, especially with mental health matters. This is something policing has got right. If you go to a bad job, they offer you all the support. Everyone is always looking out for each other and support where we can.
The friendships in the police are just as real as those I formed in the army. I have made some fantastic friends so far. It goes without saying that there will be personality clashes, but this is true of every work environment.
Life as a response officer is full of highs and lows. The calls I personally find exciting and go looking for are not what everyone enjoys. On patrol, your sergeants identify the strengths and weaknesses of officers and usually try to send people to where they are best suited. There are times when this isn’t possible, and you end up in a situation you might not perhaps have volunteered to be in.
Similarly, to the army I think you get out what you put in. If you apply yourself and do the best you can, then the jobs you prefer, and the courses are more likely to come your way.
I have been posted to Patrol south throughout my time with the force and have enjoyed every minute of it. I have been lucky enough to have completed my emergency response driving course whilst in my probationary period. This was a fantastic course and having the ability to respond to 999 calls on blue lights and sirens makes the job feel a lot more real.
I’ve been directly involved in some large-scale jobs and critical incidents and have helped evacuate planes at London Luton Airport, deal with major road traffic collisions, disrupt violent street gangs and drug dealers, and even worked with counter terrorism and special branch.
I think all ex-military are expected to want to go to the armed policing side of things, and might even be drawn or pushed towards it, because it seems a natural fit. Personally,
I enjoy response policing and I think it has more to offer me. Longer term I’m hoping to look at a career in the roads policing unit. I’m also happy to stay as a PC for a while and not rush for promotion - it’s a 30-year career after all!
In terms of career progression and job satisfaction you have loads of options in the police. If you don’t enjoy the department you work in, there are many others you can move to where you might flourish. The role of a response officer is nothing like the role of a surveillance officer.
There really is something for everyone as a police officer.