On the frontline: A day in the life of a police response officer
- Credit: RACHEL EDGE
For a police response officer, life on the frontline can be dangerous, challenging and intense. Reporter MICHAEL STEWARD shadowed a Suffolk police constable last week to experience a day on the beat.
"Everyone, this is Martin from the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star."
Crowded into a briefing room with 16 other uniformed officers, it was an inauspicious start to my day in the life of a police response officer.
Pc Dan Low, the officer I will tail for the day, quickly apologises for his introduction error. 'You'll have to forgive me," he says. "It's 7am in the morning."
Despite the early start, Landmark House in Ipswich is a hive of police activity. A place I have never visited before, it looks much as I imagined it.
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Officers, both uniformed and plain clothed, mill around computer screens following the briefing, setting themselves up for the day ahead.
"Every day is different," Pc Low says. "You never know what you're going to get." Journalism and policing have that in common at least, but that's probably where the comparison ends.
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Pc Low has been a response officer for nearly eight years, having previously spent time with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and the Met - covering Islington and Camden.
He joined Suffolk police in July and confesses to "love it here".
It is just after 8am when we get our first call of the day to a concern for welfare in the London Road area of Ipswich.
Pc Low, colleague Rachel and I travel to the location (no blue lights) and we are invited inside a man's home to discuss the incident.
It quickly becomes clear that it's a domestic incident and Pc Low makes copious notes before attempting to contact the alleged victim.
After contact is eventually made, the woman alleges an assault has taken place and Pc Low sends colleagues to arrest the man in connection with the incident.
The woman does not wish to give a statement, and the charging decision will lie with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) once all paperwork is filed.
For Pc Low, incidents of this nature are all too common.
"I would say more than half of the jobs we go to are domestic offences," he said.
"Obviously there are different types of domestic abuse - harrassment, assault or sexual abuse.
"It is something we take very seriously and work with partner agencies to help people."
We return to Landmark House in order for Pc Low to upload body-cam footage and fill in the necessary casework on his computer.
Does he think there is too much form filling and is it too time consuming?
"I can see the reasons why we do it, but I think there is duplication," he says. "So many different agencies want information and there is some overlap.
"But they are working hard to try to streamline everything."
The casework for that incident has to be quickly shelved when a Grade A call - requiring an immediate response - comes in.
This time we are on blue lights and flying through a number of red lights - I don't mind admitting it was a hair-raising experience. Especially when a fellow motorist turns right just ahead of us without appearing to see the speeding patrol car.
The incident itself, an infant death, is a tragic one.
Driving back to Landmark House around lunchtime, I ask Pc Low how difficult it is to deal with such incidents, is enough support available to officers?
"We have a great support network within the police, something called TRiM (Trauma Risk Management), which I think was started by the navy and adopted by the police," he says.
"They have specially trained officers to offer support after anything traumatic.
"That really does help. I've used that before when I was a Cambridgeshire police officer. I had a child death back there which affected me when I was in my probation.
"I actually used TRiM and that really helped me. Because it doesn't talk about your feelings, it just talks about the incident and about your actions there. It really helps just to talk to someone about it."
Our day in the life ends there, with ongoing casework relating to both incidents taking priority all afternoon.
I am left pondering the emotional rollercoaster of the day. What struck me most was how quickly everything can change in an instant. One minute, you could be joking with colleagues in the office, the next you could find yourself at a major incident, having to deal with injured or bereaved people.
It was an eye-opener.
As we say our goodbyes, Pc Low, who is currently studying for his sergeant's exam in March next year, tells us what he loves most about the job.
"It is that variety I think, you don't know what is going to come in on the end of that radio."