Two weeks ago I told you I’d recently retired from the police having served just over 15 years. It was a medical retirement so it wasn’t a choice, more a life necessity.
Today I’m going to start a series of posts talking about policing. What it’s really like. So, hopefully, if you love crime fiction you can see where the fiction and reality meet. You can also get a feel of where I wrote Shallow Waters from. The kind of detective I was. Who I really am. It was weird hiding that part of my life as being a police officer was such a big part of it.
I’m starting in the most basic place there is. The relationships within the service and the camaraderie that is there.
Whoever joins the police as an officer always has to do two years probationary service on a uniform shift first. Everyone. It’s where you start the learning process. It’s where you start to get your love of the job.
The uniform side of the job is extremely underrated. Everyone wants to know what it’s like as a detective, dealing with more serious crimes. But uniform get to every scene first.
This post is about the relationships you have within the police though and this is why I still love uniform so much. This is where you learn the importance of the relationships you have. When you’re in trouble there’s nothing like hearing those two tones in the distance and knowing they’re heading for you. I know that feeling. You’re physically struggling, but it’s an emotionally euphoric sound. Those people are there for you.
That’s why there is a real camaraderie within the uniform part of policing. You rely on each other in a very real way. Your lives could literally depend on the other’s reactions.
Once you move on to detective departments things change slightly. There’s not the danger, the immediacy, that there is in uniform. No matter what we write in our novels, as a detective you are rarely in as much danger as the front line officer because if you were they’d be demanding you go out in much more than just your suit. So with the slowing down in speed of jobs comes a more relaxed relationship at work. You’ve been in the job a few years, you work long hours. When you finish you want to go home to your family rather than to the pub.
Another thing is how you address each other. If you have a good sergeant you call them by their first name. Though never in public, never in front of visitors – social care etc, or higher level bosses. It’s just a respect thing.
Bosses (inspector and above) call you by your first name. They don’t call you DC whatever. Neither do they call uniform cops “officer” when on a scene. If it’s a small station/working area, it’s more than likely the detectives will know the uniform officers names, after all we all work in the same building so a lot of them will even be friends! If a boss knows your name they use it. If they don’t they ask then use it or they just speak to you civilly and ask you to do whatever it is they want you to do.
When addressing an inspector or above it’s always Sir or Ma’am. Depending on your own DI, it can be Boss or similar. (but use Sir/Ma’am in front of senior colleagues and visitors or members of the public.)
We work together. We work respectfully. (There are obviously some people you will think of as idiots in there because the service represents society and there are always people you will clash with.) They also have a laugh as much as they can, even when the job they’re working is hard because something needs to break the pain of what it is they’re dealing with. It doesn’t mean the officers are callous. It means they are trying to keep their humanity not lose it.
I hope this has given you a little insight into how police working relationships function. Is it what you thought? Do they match up to what you’re reading or help you with what you’re writing? Is anything glaringly different to what you expected? I’d love to hear your thoughts.