CI Jackie Hirst: Women in Policing.

Chief Inspector Jackie Hirst is a 27 year career police officer based at Blackpool in Lancashire.

Chair of the “Women in policing” network, she is also a Force Incident Commander and Operations Manager for Firearms and Road Policing.

Jackie started her career at the south end of Blackpool, an extremely busy sector where new officers literally sank or swim.

During her career she suffered bereavement on a scale that would have finished most people. To her credit she used the experience to push forward, refusing to give in and ultimately came out the other side a wiser person.

“Theres a promise I made to my husband. Please live life for the both of us.”


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PS Regie Butler: Wellbeing Team

img_7180Devon and Cornwall Police entered into a strategic alliance with Dorset Police in 2016. This week I am delighted to speak with PS Regie Butler about his well being team within the alliance. They offer peer support to Officers and staff and have introduced some interesting initiatives seen as “icebreakers” to kick start the discussion of mental health and well being within the organisations. Regie also shares his own personal experience that nearly lead to his death.

“I’ve had some experiences in my life in which I nearly killed myself.”





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Police Sergeant Harry Tangye

Harry Tangye is a 27 year veteran of the Devon and Cornwall Police. He is currently a firearms commander, VIP protection officer and a firearms post incident manager.

As we walk on the outskirts of Dartmoor national park in Devon we discuss social media from a policing point of view, PTSD and the procedures surrounding police officers in post incident shootings.

“Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t enough!”


Harry Tangye police blog

Devon and Cornwall Police

Sarah Green Deputy Commissioner IPCC

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Deputy Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, Lancashire Constabulary

img_7180Andy Rhodes is currently the Deputy Chief Constable of the Lancashire Constabulary and the national lead for wellbeing for the police services within England and Wales.

In a remarkably candid interview he shares with me his vision of the future; where the police service is at the moment and some of his own battles that have shaped him into the leader he is today.

“How you feel is everything!”

Its a fascinating insight into a senior leader within senior management.


The “Buzz” mentioned in this podcast is an internal intranet chat board for the employee’s of Lancashire Constabulary to share their views and discuss topics.

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An introduction to the new Well Being podcasts.

img_7180After several years of blogging  (which you can still find on this site should you wish to explore)  I have now moved into a medium that I have loved since I was a child and that is radio!. Except its no longer that crackly late night broadcast whose quality  depended as much as the quality of the weather as it did on the speakers it was listened through.

With the coming age of modern social media anyone can now be a radio star. But the whole point of this new project is not for you to read this narrative but to listen.

I invite you to follow me as I explore well being not only within the police service but in its wider contexts. And as with any open ended journey we may well at some point reach our  destination without realising it and continue on onto the other side. Perhaps that is where true learning and enlightenment exists?

Thanks for joining. I look forward to walking with you together.

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The survival of the fitness

I’m no station sergeant tapping away on a typewriter that not only makes enough noise to reverberate through the nick or heavy enough to require a solidly built oak desk as desks were the. built in those days. 

No, I am fast approaching 50 with 20 years in. Yes I joined relatively late but I was too busy enjoying my previous career to consider giving it all up in the early days. Just as well to be honest, as for me at least, had I not had that life changing, globe trotting experience I would not be the man I am today or indeed the police officer  I ultimately became to be. Everyone has the right time but the right time is not for everyone. 

So here I am on the raggity edge of modern policing. I’ve gone from teleprinters, as a probationer printing off the MSSL on desk duty at St Annes on a 9 – 7 day filing the reams of paper into a folder that nobody read to windows based technical and emotional support. 

Conversely I also remember kerbing the wheel of the local panda, having to circulate a message to MSSL with exotic destinations such as x63 , pnc and other numerical address’s that made no sense at all before having a meeting with the headmaster with no coffee provided! These days you have to write off a car before you are in the headmasters study.

So what is the point of all this? Well I am getting older and those that I work with are getting younger. Well obviously not physically but that is my point of view! And as I get older I wonder if my view point holds any sway. Indeed as I get older do I have any relevance not only only within society as a whole but more importantly for me, my colleagues that I work with. That is what worries me! Breaking it down to the baseline, am I viewed as an old fart that is past his sell by date and ergo knows nothing?

Well not yet! I work on the operations department, road policing to be exact and can still mix it up in pursuits and whilst not the very fitess on the department I can still sprint in full body armour. 

And younger officers still bend our traffic ears for advice, we like that. So what is my problem?

For me there are two problems. A generational gap between colleagues and also supervision and vice versa and secondly the dismantling of team and spirit as a result of technology where the office has been removed from the station, the only home that bobbies knew and replaced with tablets, refs in the car and log updates from their PDA’s. Isolated by Windows yet never having time to look out of them. 

Taking the generational gap first. Officers a generation apart sharing the same rank working together on modern teams. That can cause issues within the team. Not so much of an issue work wise for indeed younger officers will look to the older officers for advice, especially on the street where experience is king. But younger officers will head start generally on new policy and procedures and especially in the office leaving older officers feeling “out of it.” Both sides left feeling that the other is useful as an necessity. 

Then there are supervisors who are older with a young team and conversely a newly promoted supervisor with old sweats. These situations need to be managed with empathy from both sides.

The second problem is technology. Technology is great isn’t it? Uber fast and efficient. It is the way forward our human race will develop without a doubt. 

Now I am not going to go on about new systems that we cannot yet understand due to lack of experience. If you expect me to do so then you have missed the point. My point is that our office has become electronic and as such isolationist. Great that we spend more time on the street. 

But my worry is that we spend just as much office time whilst on the street and isolated from our colleagues; our only link between ourselves is a radio channel and an email address. Only seeing each other at the start and to a lesser the end of tour.

The future does not support well being. Unless those officers in the future areautomatons,  technology will always have to make allowance for emotion.

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The Police Unity Tour 2015

untiy tour tour

The Police Unity Tour. What a simple yet perfect way to describe this years cycle ride supporting the charity COPS. Police….yes; Unity….. most definitely; Tour…. as close to riding in a peloton as you will you get!

The Police Unity Tour UK has been going for several years now but it was only this year that I got to hear about it. As a keen armchair cyclist and always up for a challenge I would probably fail at the first hurdle. I thought where do I sign up? Talent vs expectation was never my strong point!

Thankfully, though late in the day I managed to secure a place. My heart was relieved but the “cold light of day” part of my brain reminded me that this was no walk over. In fact looking at the route and the time splits together with the fact that I had not done any training whatsoever made me quickly realise whether I would make it to the finish line at all!

I have known Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis for several years now. One of those friendships where you cant really put your finger on when we exactly became friends, but I remember both Irene and her husband were relatively new to cycling. As an ex club cyclist I gave advice. Both Irene and her husband have obvious talent. Whilst I remained sedentary, Irene and Mr Curtis clocked several thousand miles and got very fit indeed. In fact, in all likelihood it was Irene that got me hooked into this tour.

And so it was that Irene kindly arranged my travel down to New Scotland Yard. The day very quickly came and I took my bike and my backpack down to London, minus the cat and certainly not looking for streets paved with gold.

Version 2On the train down, I met two infectious ladies whose humour defied their age. Pat and Carol you are two beautiful women who on being nosey, managed to extract more information from me than a tier three interviewer. The end result though was not a charge but a crisp Scottish ten-pound note placed gently in my hand. “It’s a good thing you do Son” I will never forget that random act of kindness.

And so I landed at Euston, briefly two hours after leaving Lancashire. I wheeled my bike outside and exchanged my trainers for my cycling shoes. With my smart phone in hand I punched in the route to New Scotland Yard and began what I was to discover was the most dangerous part of the ride. Road closures, diversions meant I gingerly spent a lot of the short journey on the pavement. I got to Trafalgar Square and asked a Met cycle cop the quickest route to NSY. He then sent me on my way by saying “Don’t cycle on the pavement mate or you will get a ticket!” Smiling at the irony and yet suitable chastised I walked and cycled to the Yard.

Remarkably as if by magic I was met by Gavin (MPS) who directed me to the garage where I dropped my bike off. Not having time to book into the Union Jack Club before the safety briefing I stayed at NSY and made my way up to the briefing room. The room outside containing hand painted portraits of current and previous Commissioners. I sought out the painting of my old boss Sir Paul Stephenson which brought back memories of him pushing a shed of a vehicle in the pouring rain in Blackpool whilst I stayed behind in the section van providing safety cover. (Little did I know that I was born to be a traffic officer, even then!)

Soon we all convened into the briefing room for the safety brief and a short time later I met up with Irene. “Hello Ma’am” I said. She said there was no rank in here. That was to set the tone for the entire ride.

Briefing done I walked to my hotel ready for the start the next morning.

I will not bore you with a blow-by-blow account of the first days ride. But I will share with you the highlights. The first highlight was that it rained, boy did it rain! Nearly 87 miles of bloody rain. Assistant Commissioner Helen King attended the start of the ride at the police memorial on The Mall. There was a bag piper scoring the dark sky with his shrill melody. A short service ensued and AC king wished us well. A very nice touch, which was appreciated.

This Lancashire lad still hasn’t got over this! A police escort as we all cycled down The Mall under Marble Arch and past Buckingham Palace. How many people can say they were a part of that!

We continued out of London, which included several stops. A note to the organisers. It was bloody freezing when we had to stop, so if the weather is going to be the same next year, a nice big tea urn would be appreciated. Us Lancashire lads and lasses like a good strong cuppa!

We arrived at Milton Keynes Holiday Inn within half an hour of the scheduled arrival. A lovely hotel. Each room had a balcony that looked out into an atrium. It was easy to spot the unity riders as they had laid their wet cycling kit out on each balcony for all to see. Indeed, the clothing was that wet that the atrium developed its own weather system!

I was billeted with an officer called Gareth Thomas (MPS). Sharing the same surname he said that we could be brothers, and in a sense he was right. He was one of the ride marshals and obviously a very fit man. We shared our stories, talked about our wives and our children. A lovely bloke and that was the first time I felt the unity of the tour.

Version 2The following day, before the start I took my bike to the tour mechanics. I discovered that the rim on my rear wheel was starting to split from the inside out, it could go at any minute! I asked the mechanic to squirt some oil on the chain. I would deal with that problem when it happened.

We continued our ride to Hinckley in weather far better than the day before. En route we stopped at Towester. The Chief Constable of that force standing in the road clapping us in.  I have never seen anything like it. After a welcome food stop with cakes made by the staff at the nick which were truly marvellous we pressed on. That’s when things went wrong for me! Soon after Hinckley I blew up. My legs just wouldn’t do what I was telling them despite me telling them to shut up. I pulled up and got into the SAG wagon. I was distraught.

In the wagon were lovely support crew. Once of the ladies who was giving lots of encouragement throughout the tour I later learnt was a survivor herself.  Once again the power of the human spirit left me in complete and utter awe and admiration. I travelled in that van for about seven miles before getting out five miles before we were due to meet to survivors families for lunch.

Perhaps at my lowest ebb all that we were doing came to a sharp point of light.

As I got into the van there was a lady sat in her cycling kit. To me she looked distraught. Every time we passed the main group this wonderful lady buried her head in her hands. I felt a failure as we passed them and wondered if she felt the same. I do not know her name or rank. The SAG wagon stopped every so often to get video and photos of the group as they passed. Every time this lady hid her face. I knew how she felt. BUT, I could not bear to see this lady beat herself up even though I had similar feelings of guilt. I told her that she had ridden over a hundred miles, raised money for our brothers and sisters. She was not a failure but a hero. I knew every other rider on the tour would have said the same.

The final day saw the group being joined by riders from South Wales and Norfolk. A brisk 14 miler until we stopped just outside the police arboretum.

We formed up and rode in together. People clapping as motorcycles led us in. I looked to my right and saw my Chief. To the right of him I saw my police Inspector and her husband police Inspector. Genuinely pleased to see them, a grin grew on my face. The cold rain suddenly didn’t seem so cold.

We crammed into the marque as the rain beat down. As though those we were celebrating were crying. But not for their passing but for their love of those that they had left behind. It was a very moving ceremony. A son describing his loss of a father; a father describing his loss of a son.

And so after the ceremony I walked “The Beat.” A tree lined grassed mall dedicated to all police forces across the country. I passed the police officers of all ranks, dressed in their number one uniform forming the guard of honour. Flags flying, men and women stood to attention. I have never felt so proud to be a police officer.

I found my home force tree and the memorials to the officers fallen within my own force. All the hard work I had done and that of every other rider within the Tour hit me. I broke down next to that simple chestnut tree.

Version 2I stood freezing and a few minutes later I was joined by the wife of the officer I was riding for, a brother from my own unit. I said to her “ I have something for you.” I took the engraved blue band from my wrist and gave it to her. I gave her a big bear hug and broke down again. I don’t how long we stood there.

So what have I learnt from this truly unique experience?


I have ridden with Chief’s, Dep’s and every rank in between. I did not realise it at the time. I have made friends with brothers and sisters I didn’t know I had. That we are a family. That family extends not only to us serving officers but that of their families. Most importantly, the families of those bothers and sisters lost are our families and will ever remain so as long as we have breath in our lungs and love in our hearts.

And I have witnessed bravery by officers I have rode with, only matched by the bravery of those survivors who chose not to lie down but to get up after being knocked down.

Version 2Perhaps though my final words are for the ride marshals.  Working like trojans, leap frogging from junction to junction like SET motorcycle riders. Pushing weaker riders up those hills, giving encouragement to those that needed to hear it and stopping traffic, putting themselves at risk so we could ride through unhindered. Ladies and gentlemen I salute you.


See you in 2016.

Dave Thomas.

Posted in Family Liaison, Leadership, pursuits, Road Policing, Speeding, Well being | 1 Comment