December. A month when people seem to write lists.
So here’s one of mine:
Ten Coppering Reflections on the year gone by.
(1) Policing under Strain
I’ve said it before and it bears repeating… These are the most challenging times for policing in this country since the end of the Second World War.
Growing demand. Growing complexity. Rising crime. Falling officer numbers. Growing pressure. Growing scrutiny. The complex consequences of austerity.
And more to come.
There is a difference between a saving and a cut – and I know many more good police officers working under significantly more strain than at any previous point in my career.
And still they keep on saving lives and seeking the lost; still they keep on comforting the broken and protecting the vulnerable; still they keep on confronting the dangerous and, just sometimes, risking it all.
I remain more proud than I can possibly say to count myself amongst them.
I work with heroes.
(2) The Shadows of Terror
Westminster Bridge. London Bridge. Borough Market. Finsbury Park. The Manchester Arena. Parsons Green.
The loss of innocent life. The twisted ideology of a few. The humanity and heroism of the many.
Amongst all that was horrifying and terrifying and breathtaking and heart-breaking, two things linger longest in my thoughts.
Standing for Keith
For a few precious hours on a grey April morning, London stood still.
We stood for Keith.
A husband. A dad. A Copper.
And he will never be forgotten. Because there is no greater love than to lay down your life.
Wayne & Charlie
I don’t know what I would do if faced with the reality of a terrorist attack. I hope I would be brave.
But I know what Wayne and Charlie did. I know what they are.
Two police officers, one in uniform and one off duty. With just a police-issue baton between them, they ran towards. And they very nearly lost their lives as a consequence.
They are heroes for the ages.
(3) Grenfell Tower
I shared the sense of anger and disbelief expressed by so many in the shadow of the still-smoking block.
How the hell could that many people die? And in such circumstances?
None of them were rich. None of them had particular status or influence or power in any conventional sense. But each one of them was precious. Each one was our neighbour.
And I shared the sense of overwhelming admiration for the Fire Fighters and their Emergency Services colleagues who fought the inferno and battled to save as many souls as they could.
The things they saw and did in that place are beyond comprehension.
(4) The Madness of History Repeating Itself
Another day, another stabbing. Another week, another wasted life. Another shattered family. Another grieving neighbourhood. Another round of helpless hand-wringing.
There was a haunting, desperate familiarity to it all. We’ve been here before.
And it remains one of the most urgent issues of our time.
But it needs enough of us to care enough for long enough for anything to change.
(5) A New Met Commissioner
Her preference is for people to call her Cress.
She is that remarkable combination of outstanding police officer and outstanding person.
And I’m proud to call her Boss.
(6) Headlines & Stories
Despite the telling of some extraordinary tales this year, there remains a bewildering hostility towards policing in certain sections of the media.
I don’t ever want any journalist to back away from asking difficult and uncomfortable questions of the police in this country. It matters that they do. There are times when we get it dreadfully wrong and there should be no hiding when we do.
But some front pages aren’t about that at all. Some front pages seem motivated by agendas that are far less noble.
And I happen to think that the press should be better than that.
(7) A Better Conversation about Mental Health
We have started talking about mental health in policing in a way that we never have before.
And that has to be a very good – as well as a very necessary – thing. Provided it never becomes just another managerial tick in a box.
This is a heck of a job – and we need, urgently, to develop a far better understanding of the inevitable consequences for officers and staff of the things that we as a society ask and expect them to do.
(8) A 25 Year Anniversary
September 21st marked 25 years since I first set out on my policing adventure.
An opportunity to pause and reflect – and to wonder where on earth the years have gone.
Policing is a great big, wonderful, infuriating, glorious, dysfunctional, extraordinary family.
A family that I belong to.
And, when you strip away all the noise and nonsense, this remains about as extraordinary as a job can be.
How to even begin making sense of a bewildering and troubling world that includes Britain’s Brexit & America’s Trump?
You might say that those things have nothing to do with a Copper. That I have no business writing about them.
Except that I do.
The spread of a toxic, swirling morass of division and hatred, of anger and fake news has had very real consequences in the lives of ordinary people. And when a murderer is heard to shout ‘Britain First’ as he launches his attack, it becomes entirely the business of the police.
And of us all.
(10) The Rest of Life
But, at the end of every year, there are always three things that seem to matter more than anything else:
Friends: We measure our riches in our friendships. And I am fortunate to have friends who continue to walk with me every limping step of the way.
Family: I have my family at work and I have my family at home. My wife is extraordinary. My children are too. And loving them will always be my most important duty.
Faith: I have little or no time for the religion of my childhood. But faith is something other. And I have begun to discover a thing called grace – the rumour that I am loved beyond measure, just as I am.