Thursday, 11 August 2011

Why I Want To Go Back

They say – don’t go back. It never works. It’s the wrong thing to do. It’ll be a mistake. But what if … 

I was compelled to watch the news unfold over the last few days. My heart was breaking as I watched London on fire, people distraught, losing all they and their families had built up. I saw police officers useless in trying to combat gangs and thugs with mindless acts of violence. Mindless because I am sure many of them didn’t think about what they were doing when they were destroying property, other people’s belongings, livelihoods and hurting fellow mankind. Or maybe they did think and did it regardless but I am sure there will be many that regret it today. I hope so. 
I watched places I had lived and worked become enveloped in riot situations that were beyond control. I remembered the communities, the housing estates, the shops, the cultural, cosmopolitan city that I had policed some years ago. And I cried for the family heritage that belongs to my husband and my children, as he was born and brought up there until I took him to the north east of England in 1997. My eldest two children were born in East London and are proud to say that. And as I watched these terrible events unfold, not just in London, but across the country, I felt powerless and felt I had to do something. 

I believe the same things today as I did when I joined the Metropolitan Police on 22nd July 1985. I was nineteen, naïve and wanted to help people.
‘But you cry whenever you see a tramp!’ my best friend, Jo, said to me.
She was right, I did. Shrugging, I said, ‘I know ... but perhaps I can make a difference.’
She scoffed. ‘You’ll be taking them all home with you.’
I knew what she meant. I also knew this was different. It went deeper than that. There was part of me that wanted to make a difference, even if it was to just one person’s life.
‘You’ll get too involved, take on everyone’s problems as your own. You can’t solve the world’s issues you know!’
I think she was angry with me. ‘I do know,’ I smiled, trying to defend myself. ‘That’s for the politicians.’
‘Does it really concern you though, all these things going on in everyone else’s lives?’
‘It won’t be everyone’s. It’s just one small borough of London, a little pocket teeming with people.’ I cupped my hands to show her.
‘There you go again, getting all poetic.’
She didn’t get it. I don’t think I could explain it, then or now. It wasn’t anything romantic like a need or a calling, nothing like that. It was just something I felt I had to do, something I felt I could do, something that would ultimately make me feel better; about others. And about myself.
I haven’t yet told her that I plan to go back … I don’t wonder what she’ll say.

After my twenty weeks at Hendon training school, I worked in Limehouse and Bow (HH) from 1985 – 1989. I then transferred to Vine Street (CV) and worked in uniform and plain clothes, and as a TI (temporary investigator – something the Met invented for a time as an apprenticeship into CID). In 1994 I transferred to Chingford where I worked with vulnerable people, domestic violence and was introduced to the world of child protection.
In 1997, when my son was 19 days old, we packed up and transferred to another force in the North East of England. I went back into uniform for two years and we worked opposite shifts with two babies. It was tough, but I loved my job. Then in 1999 after the birth of my youngest, I became a fully fledged detective and worked in child protection. There were many paedophiles, child abusers, child deaths and neglect. I thrived. I was good. I was better than good. I was bloody brilliant and I have the documents to prove it. And then, in October 2005, I left.
A senior officer said he expected me to be a success and to do well in whatever I chose to do next. I said nothing but I didn’t intend to prove him wrong.
We now have Footprints nursery, an award winning business that with a lot of hard work, we have turned around and made into a success. We have Gold Investors in People, two local business awards and have just been shortlisted for the prestigious Nursery World Awards – down to three from all the nurseries in the UK. Some achievement.
But I still miss ‘my job’. When I heard the call for ex officers, I rang my husband and asked him if he fancied it. I knew what he would say and I wasn’t wrong. ‘You go. I’ll stay home and look after the kids.’ He knows me as much as I know him.
I rang. They took my details. They rang me again today and took some more. It’ll be a process of four stages. They may not want me. I might be too old, not enough recent experience, too much history …
But if they want me, I’ll be there. I couldn’t not go. Twenty years experience and knowledge and hard work shouldn’t be wasted at a time like this. I can take statements, collate information, do enquiries, video interview vulnerable people and children who have been victims/witnesses.
Whatever the causes of the terrible events of the last few days, and there are many, it’s a job that needs doing. And I can do it. If they'll have me.