July 2014 I’m trying to stuff my bag into the overhead of a packed plane destined for sunny Spain and a well earned break, nothing on my mind other than a bit of sun and a few beers, ok a lot of beer! As I settle into my seat the man next to me says, ” Did you used to work at Ilford? It turned out to be a DC I worked with some 8 years previously.
For the next 2 hours we chatted away about ‘the job’ and the degree course he had just completed at Canterbury Christ Church University. I was looking for a new challenge and against a backdrop of graduate entries knew that to stand a chance in this new era of policing I really needed to grab this opportunity while I had the chance. Almost as soon as my plane touched down I was applying to join the in service BSc policing degree.
Even though my application was past the cut-off date the programme director Emma Williams could not have been more helpful getting me on board. 5 months later I’m exceptionally glad I met my ex colleague in that chance meeting. When I first started there was a lot of nervousness and trepidation about returning to education after 20 years especially when I considered the first time around to be a very lacklustre effort on my behalf to say the least!
I had plunged straight into this with little thought but that’s my style, think about it later (although I don’t advocate this style in a professional mode!). The suggested initial reading list alone had me a little worried; bit more challenging than my normal Jack Reacher train read. The reading was there to give us an overview and set all the students up for the first study weekend at the beginning of September. For an introduction it was pretty tough going, I will be honest when I say I was none the wiser when I turned up the first weekend in September.
The study weekend was both reassuring and exciting. I saw a few faces I knew and lots of more mature people than I expected, a real broad range of skill set, experience, background and role from across the country. It was all a lot to take in but at the same time good to know that everyone I spoke to felt the same, despite age or level of experience. A great positive out of all of this was that I could now get that Apple Mac I had always wanted, with a little persuasion of course!
So what have a learnt so far, I feel like I have almost had my eyes shut during the first 16 years of my career, I have been given a new angle, a new understanding and a fresh set of viewpoints, values and opinions. I think the average copper is right of centre on most issues, myself included, lock them up and throw away the key was my general attitude without ever bothering to look deeply into the whys of the situation. Learning about environmental issues, labels, strains and moral panics has led to my opinions changing to a more open approach, which I think is exceptionally important when learning new things.
It has been great to hear others views as well, even if I don’t necessarily agree with what others are saying it makes for some great open conversation. Policing and the way we police is an emotive subject, especially in todays climate, the things that effect me in my role and within the MPS are not unique to me and London, they affect everyone on the course no matter where they are from. I didn’t really realise how much things are changing and the rate that they are changing before starting the course. Does this worry me? I suppose it does but it also makes me think and that must be a good thing.
Writing my first essay was a task; I didn’t really know where to start but with some direction from my tutor, I was soon writing away furiously. I thought my first effort was pretty awful and spent a train journey from West Brompton to Tower Hill the night before the essay was due in, editing and rewording it until it didn’t even resemble my first draft. Actually getting it in on time felt like an achievement in itself.
I could not have asked for a better group to start the course with, everyone has a great attitude that I have spoken to and I have seen a lot of encouragement given to those who have struggled to start with, which includes myself. I have also managed a few nights out post lecture on the Friday night of the study weekend and just for the hell of it, I have a few hangovers to show for it as well.
All in all the first 5 months have been brilliant, hard work but worthwhile, I’m keeping in mind the ultimate goal of getting a degree in 2017 and the smugness that goes with knowing I actually saw it through to the end. On the basis of my first months I would without reservation recommend the policing in service programme at CCCU to all of my colleagues. I think it is something everyone who takes their job seriously should do and if you like a drink or two along the way then that’s a nice little bonus.