September 21st 1992.
The day I took the oath and began an adventure – a love affair – that has continued for the last 25 years.
I love policing.
When you strip away all the noise and the nonsense, it turns out to be as extraordinary as a job can be. It’s about saving lives and finding the lost. It’s about comforting the broken and protecting the vulnerable. It’s about confronting the violent and pursuing the dangerous. Sometimes, it’s about risking it all.
I love police officers.
When you listen to the stories of their working lives, they turn out to be as extraordinary as people can be. People who confront armed terrorists. People who give CPR on dusty pavements. People who enter smoke-filled buildings. People who whisper words of comfort to the dying. People who work all the hours in all the weather. People who talk down the haunted and the hurting. People who put up with every kind of abuse. People who, without hesitation, put themselves in harm’s way. People who venture repeatedly into the hurting places. People who keep coming back for more. People who understand that precious, old fashioned thing called duty.
I love them.
Of course, every love affair has its ups and downs. Inevitably, there have been things that I haven’t loved quite as much. The small number of Coppers who don’t care. The even smaller number who belong in jail. The bosses who are concerned more for themselves than they are for anyone or anything else. (There’s a world of difference between bad management and good leadership.) The decision makers who prefer soundbites to substance. The bureaucrats for whom process matters more than people. The conspiracy of the unimportant – a fixation with things that really don’t matter. The analysis of the uninformed – those in possession of armchairs and opinions, devoid of experience and understanding. The days when we hit the target, but miss the point. The headlong rush to apportion blame. The grim repetition of violent history.
But, when my time is done, those won’t be memories that dominate my thoughts. Those won’t be the stories I tell.
When my time is done, I will remember the people and the adventures we shared.
I will remember my first day on duty, my first arrest, my first sudden death, my first murder scene. I will remember the first time I called for ‘Urgent Assistance’ and the swift sound of sirens in the distance. I will remember the armed siege at the old BBC building on the Aldwych, the fatal crash at Hyde Park Corner, the day I stood guard for Princess Diana. I will remember the families of the young men I never met; young men gone far too soon. I will remember the foot chases, the early morning door knocks and the day when hundreds of us combined to take out the dealers on a North London estate. I will remember the lost soul on the seventeenth floor, threatening to jump. I will remember shutting down what felt like half of Central London, as snipers took up positions on rooftops and negotiators made contact with the man in the suicide vest. I will remember standing inside the blue and white cordon tape, caught up in stories played out live on the rolling news. I will remember stumbling home at the end of the shift knowing that, today at least, we made a difference.
I will remember faces and places, laughter and the tears. More than anything, I will remember heroes and friends.
I am proud to be a police officer – more proud than I can say. This job – The Job – is an affair of the heart and the soul. And, if I had my time again, I would do it all again.
Fall in love all over again.