It’s very nearly a year since I left ‘the job’, a job I’d loved, breathed, lived, hated, sweated for and bled for…and for what? For my last couple of years to be the worst of the lot!
There’ll be no naming and shaming, but those close to me will know who is who and some continue to bang their heads against brick walls still…’head banging caused by some of the same people.
But first, it’s worth taking you back 20 years…
I’d been a dog handler in the RAF and had always thought of going into the police after the RAF time was up. Sadly, I had been medically downgraded in the Air Force due to asthma. I’d never had the bloody thing before I moved to East Anglia, suddenly there was no escape from a tight chest as the outer containment of oil seed rape fields blew their toxic pollen around RAF Wattisham. I only had to look at a yellow field and my chest would tighten. A week of tests at the RAF hospital in Midhurst concluded I did indeed have asthma and would therefore be medically downgraded. So, no promotion, no postings and I’d have to leave at the time I signed up for.
On leaving the RAF I took a job in the Operations Room at Suffolk HQ, answering 999 calls and the like. The regular questions about why hadn’t I joined the police were being asked. I had been told by the MO at Midhurst that the ‘civ pol’ wouldn’t accept me due to the asthma. But, it appeared they were wrong…I made a ridiculous effort on the fitness front, to prove that despite asthma I was fitter and stronger than most.
A career with Suffolk Police began…all I wanted to do was be a dog handler. I would always tag along with any handler that came to jobs and spent at least one rest day a month out on patrol with them. I even applied before I was out of my probation, just to get my interest shown. I helped out as a stooge for a regional police dog trails, I needed them to see how keen I was to get a job.
When the call came, after an interview and assessment, I cried with relief and happiness, the only job I wanted to do for the rest of my service was being offered to me.
Echo 4 Charlie, my call sign, each dog handler had a dedicated call sign and personal issue vehicle. The dogs and vehicle living at home. A great crime prevention deterrent for me and those living near me.
I won’t lie and say that every single minute of the first 16 or so years were perfect, of course not, but by god they were for the most part bloody good times! Some epic jobs and great results. Plenty of bobbies on the ground to add containment, often A99 in the skies above and when all the pieces of the jigsaw came together it was a 99% strike rate on success.
Then collaboration came, coinciding with a damn fine Sgt leaving for sunnier shores…the combination was the a slippery slope to jumping ship early. A newly promoted Sgt who would point at the three stripes on their shoulder while simultaneously demanding respect…Don’t get me wrong, change can be a good thing, change can be difficult, but not all change is good.
With a combination of a variety of factors the job was certainly not the same as it used to be. A breath of fresh air momentarily came when a new Chief arrived in Suffolk, one that had been my Sgt back in the early days on patrol. In his first week back he came out on patrol…a chance to have a rant about things to someone who I knew could make a difference. Coincidentally or not, two new dog jobs that had been going north then stayed in Suffolk. A breath of fresh air from a hostile invasion…
With three years left to go I downloaded an app to my IPhone, the countdown was on…at any point in my last three years I could tell you the months, days and minutes to when I could leave. I was waiting for 50 and 25 to coincide…50 years old and 25 years service. When those magical lines crossed I could go with a pension, a pension that would see my lump sum reduced by about 75%. I would get about the same per month as I would have got at full service, so the hit on the lump sum was one I was prepared to take…to me loosing £80,000 was a price worth spending.
In my last year I had to have an operation on my left shoulder…it had got to the point where I was unable to raise my arm above the shoulder. So surgery was to be the only fix. After the surgery I was expected to be off work for approximately three months, with the surgeons telling me I would experience pain through till about 6 months and hopefully full recovery within the year.
A month to go till surgery and I received an email telling me I was to be posted into a desk job and I would have both my dogs taken off me! After 19 years on the dog section, I received an email telling me I was loosing my dogs. As you can imagine, the email didn’t exactly leave me skipping through the roses with joy…I was not going to take this laying down. So with federation advice and guidance and, after I’d calmed down, I compiled an email asking for answers to questions the federation suggested I asked.
Do you know what the reply to my email was? Threats!
Specifically, “I suggest you rein it in or your life will get very difficult”.
If ever I had moments when I thought I could do my last years, that threat showed me I was far better off taking the lump sum hit and retiring.
I did have to go and work a few weeks in the desk job, despite a recommendation to the bosses from the Senior Occupational Health Nurse that I shouldn’t. The response she got to her report was a senior officer ringing her up and berating her…no seriously, it was. Shocking to say the least.
I took the three months off after my surgery, actually coming back a couple off weeks earlier than medical advice suggested. During those three months I had been for a couple of weeks rehab at Flint House, the police rehabilitation centre. They had worked wonders on my shoulder and gave it a huge boost in its healing process.
With the help the Federation gave me and not letting myself get walked all over, I was able to complete my last 6 months or so working both my dogs. I wanted to walk away from the job as a dog handler…and I did.
So, with the best part of a year gone things are far more relaxed. Everyone I meet says I look well, am smiling more than they used to see and look generally far more relaxed. The cynic in me thinks they’re blowing smoke up my ass, but I do feel a whole lot better.
I no longer live to work, the pension goes a long way to helping with that for sure, but I now work to live, work to enjoy life a little more, work to pay for my hobbies, work to buy new bikes and new canoes, work to take on adventures and challenges…I work to live.
There is life beyond the job…
#onelife #liveit #tjf