“Every experience, good or bad, is a priceless collector’s item” – Isaac Marion.
If you have been following my blog you will know that I spent three days on work experience at Nottinghamshire Police Headquarters, in which I got an invaluable insight into many of the departments and responsibilities of the force. In this blog post, I am going to share with you the activities I got involved with and what I gained from my work experience placement.
I applied to do work experience with the police because I wanted to learn more about the different roles within the force to give me an idea of the types of careers I can enter. People are quick to assume that having a law degree means I should become a lawyer, whereas in fact my degree is very versatile and can be utilised in many professions.
Wednesday 19th July:
On the first day, I left my house bright and early excited for what the day ahead would entail. When I arrived at the Nottinghamshire Police headquarters (HQ) I had to wait at the gates to be let in by the reception staff. Once I was in, I parked up my car and headed over to reception where I was greeted with a visitor card on a lanyard. I was shortly collected by a member of staff (who I am not going to name for confidentiality purposes), who had been an active police community support officer (PCSO) for the last 27 years!
I was then given a guided tour around the premises discussing all the departments from human resource management to the office of the chief. Whilst finding out about the extensive range of roles at the HQ, I also got to ask questions and to gain a fuller picture of the police as I think this is often distorted by today’s media. We are all aware of Government spending cuts, but seeing first hand what these cuts have caused was very shocking. In fact, Nottinghamshire Police no longer own any horses, therefore, the stables which are located within the woods at the HQ, are empty and are going to waste. Additionally, the police have had to reduce the number of staff, share vehicles with other forces (which includes the helicopter which is used across the whole of the East Midlands!). Furthermore, the cars/vans which are utilised by the police are all leased meaning that the force does not own one vehicle. However, this is advantageous for the police in regards to servicing.
After looking around, I got an insight into the control room and the procedure of 999 calls. Here, I found it shocking how many prank/hoax calls are received daily which waste time and potentially put urgent members of the public at risk. Also, the types of calls which are received often waste police time, for example; “I have a pigeon in my living room, I do not know what to do”. Nottinghamshire police averagely receive 500 genuine emergencies a day thus, the public needs to consider how important their call really is before dialling the emergency services. When calls are received, the police staff will write them up on to a computer system, and colour code in accordance with how quickly a response is required and also what type of officers are required to attend the call (such as dogs, firearms etc). This then allows officers to prioritise attending the more severe calls. What I noticed about the staff in this department was their general attitude towards callers, when receiving an alarming or distressing call they would maintain a calm and collective manner. This is vital to their job role because often those who call are upset and worried.
After a quick lunch break, we looked at how fingerprints are taken and I got to have try taking my own! Let’s just say, I wasn’t particularly good at it and I got ink everywhere nonetheless, I realised there is more to fingerprints than simply sticking your finger in the ink and on to the paper. To be precise you should roll your finger to get a full and clear picture of each individual’s unique whirls and lines. I was then told how the police deal with offenders who believe that wearing gloves prevents fingerprints from being left at crime scenes (which is not true), followed by discussing DNA from hair and skin cells and footprints which are left at crime scenes and how they are utilised in capturing the perpetrator.
To finish the first day, the PCSO told me about his career and experience with the police which included many of the silly calls he had attended and some life-threatening situations he had been involved with over the years. I was then given an itinerary for the next two days before I finished and drove home.
Thursday 20th July:
On the second day, I drove to the HQ eager to find out more about the police after having a great first day. Once I had parked and checked in at reception I attended a presentation on the effects of alcohol. The presentation did not provide me with much information that I was not already aware of such as recommended consumption and health detriments. We focused on how alcohol often comes hand in hand with police work and the reasons for this.
Following the alcohol presentation, the crime scene investigator (CSI) unit came in to demonstrate what their work entails followed by an activity allowing me and a group of others to work as a team as if we were called out to a crime scene to take evidence. Obviously, this was not a real investigation, however, the activity required us to act as though it was from using the police radios, bagging up evidence and keeping a detailed log of events. As a group, we concluded that there had been a hit and run type situation by using all of the evidence we were provided with. I found this activity very motivating which I could imagine being an interesting career.
After lunch, we continued to look at the work of the CSI but paid specific focus on the way evidence is collected and appropriately packaged for use in court. Every item of evidence collected by the police can be crucial to the case therefore, it is essential that each item is packed to avoid contamination and prevent it from becoming misplaced. I got to look at and touch all the different types of packaging from brown paper bags to nylon bags and plastic knife holders. We then contemplated how the police preserve evidence which is wet such as clothing which is stained with blood or semen. Drying cupboards are used on these types of items before they are placed in bags, so that evidence is not lost or soaked up by other items. The thing that surprised me most was the cost of packaging, for instance, the nylon bags cost £100 each and for obvious reasons, they are used once! When you consider how many items are taken for evidence in each case, that soon adds up!
Friday 20th July:
I was most excited for my final day because as I predicted, I had some fascinating activities planned. To begin the day, I attended a presentation on drugs which sought to educate the impact of drugs and the reason for their classifications. Drugs have circulated the streets of Nottingham for years, in fact, the police are often called to suspected cannabis growths which are illegal (of course) but also very dangerous. They are a hazard because those who grow cannabis often place heat lamps alongside water sprinklers – it does not take a genius to realise that water and electricity do NOT mix. We often hear about drugs in the media, particularly in relation to celebrities (such as Amy Winehouse etc) and those imported and utilised in prison. Drug abusers often refer to drugs as a way of “escaping life” as drugs come in 2 forms: stimulants and sedatives. The problem here is that those who become addicted to one often take the other to level them out, but the most horrifying fact is the consequential health effects upon those who misuse them. During the presentation, we got to hold genuine drugs which were seized from the streets of Nottingham worth a street value of £250,000! Within these drugs were; Heroin, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, LSD, Amphetamines, Ecstasy (MDMA), Cannabis (Marijuana), Nitrous Oxide (Laughing gas) and Crack Cocaine. It was so strange holding so many illegal substances which I had never seen before, especially considering how dangerous they are and the prison sentence they carry if you are found in possession of having them.
Following the drugs presentation, we went down to the kennels to see the police dogs and their handlers. I got to walk around the kennels and meet all the dogs before watching the types of work each dog was capable of. Police dogs are super intelligent, they can sniff drugs out of crowds, find dead bodies and detain people until their handler can get to them. Nottinghamshire police have also just taken on a puppy to train so we got to meet him which was cute!
Finally, to end the day but also my three-day experience we went down to the firearm department where some officers take extra training in using firearms. The officers told us about their role and the types of equipment they are trained to use. I tried on the ‘stab vest’ which weighed almost three stone with equipment in, therefore, I struggled to stand straight as I found it rather heavy! I was then given a tour of the police car and the kit in the car which included firearms which were locked in the front of the vehicle, a first aid kit, protection boards and a ‘stinger’ device which is used to deflate tyres. Their job sounded dangerous due to the types of incidents they are responsible for dealing with. Nottingham has seen quite a rise in knife crime over the years so the police have had to take extra precautions.
I found the entire experience very interesting, although I have realised that a PCSO role is not for me as I probably would not pass the intensive fitness and strength tests. Although, the other types of roles across the police such as in the Human Resources department and control room which are more admin type roles appeared stimulating.
Perhaps this blog post has inspired you to consider a career in the Police, and maybe you are contemplating some work experience? A little advice from me: pursue every opportunity you are given, you can never have too much experience! Just keep in mind the limitations now placed on these types of experience considering recent events (Ariana Concert, Manchester, May 2017♥) which prevent the police from being allowed to take you out on calls in their cars due to safety precautions.
Until next time,