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Andrea Quinton

An open letter to the public

An open letter to the public of the UK

 

Dear everyone,

 

Why am I choosing to write to you now? Well I am a police officer. I have served you for 26 years, 2 of those as a volunteer. I love my job, I enjoy going to work, and I am at my absolute happiest when I know I have helped one of you.

 

I have been with you when your baby has died. Nothing affected me more that carrying your baby into the white coffin in the ambulance. I wasn’t even a mum myself then.

 

I have sat with you and revisited you when a burglar came and pretended to be one of us, and made you feel safe again.

 

I have fought with you when you were drunk, or just angry. Generally, in the past, you would later apologise, but sadly no longer.

 

I have attended your house to resolve your domestic dispute over who owns the remote control. I was just 19 and you were in your forties!

 

I have attended to your partner when you battered her within an inch of her life, and ensured she never saw you again, even though she would not prosecute you. She has her life back.

 

I have picked up your 6 year old girl in my arms, lost and upset because you turned her out of her home after she repeated the sexual behaviour her Uncle had done to her, on her 3 year old brother. I cuddled her. I loved her, and everyone knows, I wish I had kept her. She became a prostitute due to lack of social care and money.

 

I have picked the pieces up from colleagues who have fallen apart after cutting your son down from the loft where he hung himself.

 

I have chased those kids who burgled your house, caught them and got the conviction in court to send them to prison.

 

I have talked your son down from the roof of the building, where he had threatened to throw himself off.

 

I have sat with you after you were raped by an alleged friend of yours, taken you to court in my own car, fought with the barristers supposedly on our side, and ensured he got sent down. You were so very brave.

 

I have sat with your very neglected children in the back of the car, while they wept for their mum who did not know how to look after them safely, but whom they still loved.

 

I supported a colleague who had been mown down deliberately by one of you, and subsequently had to leave the job as he lives in constant pain. He is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. His life is affected forever. The offender served 8 months.

 

This is not everything. I am not unique. There are thousands of us doing more than this every single day to protect you. Yes we make mistakes. Sometimes we get angry. We get tired and grumpy, and act unprofessionally. I pick up those pieces too, making sure we deal with that, and get those officers back on track.

I have no time for cops who are criminals.

 

But I am also a person. I am one of you. I am a wife and a mum of 2 young children. I do the school run. I do the shopping, the cooking and the cleaning. I hurt! I am affected by what you say. Last week it was a “whore”. That is the least of it. I am very affected by what I see.

 

This week yet another of my family has been murdered. The list is growing. But it never gets easier to lose one of our own in such a needless tragic way. Why would someone choose to run a fellow human being over rather than get a puncture in their stolen car? Why?

 

The current public outrage over these incidents, over the murder of Fiona, Nicola, Dave and all my colleagues is heartwarming. Nothing was harder to deal with than the public clapping at every police officer along Deansgate as we walked to Nicola’s funeral. I know you know you need us, I know you care about us as police officers, and as people.

 

My plea to you, is to remember those feelings. We are getting far fewer. We cannot do any more than we are doing. We are going to work every single day wishing there were more of us to look after more of you. We, as in every public service, have our limits. We cannot arrest every £10 shoplifter in a store which makes millions and still chooses to have no security, as we would not have time to look for your teenage daughter who has been indoctrinated into believing love is sexual abuse. We cannot investigate every criminal damage, as we would not have time to stop the domestic abuse which damages your minds far more than the physical abuse.

Everything is a priority. We know that. And yet we are still asked to prioritise. We try our best.

 

I am not feeling sorry for myself. I am happy to continue to look after you, to fight for you, to save you from further harm. But I want to be able to come home to my family. I want my colleagues to make it home to their family.

 

WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT MORE NOW THAN EVER BEFORE.

 

Please stick with us. Remember your heartbreak at watching those 2 little girls deliver flowers and messages to their Daddy who will never come home. Remember the heartbreak of watching the parents of the murdered police officers, knowing they will never watch them get married or have grandchildren. There are thousands of them out there. Just remember them.

 

Yours faithfully.

 

A cop!

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Women in policing – Have we been accepted?

Today is International Women’s Day. Last month saw the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote. Our head of comms tagged me in a Twitter post with the hashtag #suffragettes alongside some of the most inspirational women I have met within the police service. I was truly humbled and honoured to have been included amongst them. And today I am giving a speech at am event to celebrate International Women’s Day.

But recently I have been asking myself if women have truly been accepted In the police. We clearly have many women in top posts across all sectors so in terms of equality of leaders we are getting there, but the ‘feeling‘ of a woman in the service – how much has that changed?

Let’s consider that question. Back in early 1989 I attended a job interview to join the paramedics. I sailed through the day until the interview after some 6 hrs with 3 men who asked me one question……. What would I do if an experienced paramedic dropped his tea on the floor and told me to clear it up?  Whatever answer I gave was clearly wrong as I failed on that question alone. But interestingly not one of the men in the assessment centre that day was ever asked that question.

Some months later I walked into the parade room of Sale Police Station as a brand new Special Constable. It was 11pm and I was dressed in my GMP issue woollen skirt, ridiculous full length coat and leather handbag, not to mention the half size truncheon!   I entered the room to a comment of ‘Don’t put that split arse with me Sarge’. I didn’t even know what a ‘split arse’ was at that point but I soon found out, and the officer who made that comment? He became one of my good friends.

Fast forward 2 years to 1991 and I walked into the parade room at Brownley Road, Wythenshawe for my first shift as a probationary constable. Again I seem to remember, it was a night shift. I had already been shown where the brew stuff was… (the job of the “sprog” at the time and nothing to do with gender) and as I placed the tray of hot brews down on the table and started passing them round, I was asked by the senior PC the following question. “Are you a bike or a dyke?” He was incredibly embarrassed about this when I retold the story at his retirement party many many years later. And in case you’re wondering, my answer whether right or wrong  was ‘you’ll have to wait and see’.

When I tell officers now of those two incidents they are quite rightly absolutely horrified. Was I horrified at the time? I was definitely embarrassed but horrified would be too strong a word. Those officers never meant any harm, they simply didn’t know any different and I went on to respect them regardless. This was the culture not just of the police service but of society at that time and whilst I am not condoning it, at the time it was acceptable to most.

I was the only female officer on the team back then. Julia had just joined traffic (again breaking the norm) and it would be a further year before Barbara joined us. By then I was well and truly part of the team – Respected for what I did as a police officer regardless of my gender. In fact I was jealous when Babs first arrived, but we are now still the best of friends. That friendship was built from our need to support each other and together we were invincible. Wow we have some tales to tell.

The first years in the police were a mixture of sexual assaults, harmless innuendo and a very steep learning curve. Sgts came and went – A woman who was doubly hard on me for every mistake, a man who thought I fancied him, another who refused to put me on the van despite being the most senior officer as was the norm back then – as women don’t do that sort of thing – and many more who acquiesced to the stronger team. I dealt with it all. It was in the open. It was easy to identify and easy to challenge in an appropriate way. The phrase “we gave as good as we got” springs to mind, and yet as I have got older, I know why that was wrong, and why it still didn’t actually deal with the issues at the heart of it. But it was a culture and it was overt.

My good friend Julie Frank tackled this culture in a much better and comprehensive way. Julie was one of the most inspirational ladies I have ever met. She fought against the “normal” culture of the police in the most amazing way, by creating understanding. A pioneering woman and one of the many role models in my career.

So the first thing to say is that I believe the police service has really come a very long way. Life today is very different for women joining the service thanks to all those who went first and fought their corner and showed that they were every bit as hard, every bit as capable and every bit as respected as their male counterparts; who showed that different ways of dealing with things did not mean the wrong way and was often the better way; and demonstrated that the police needed women every bit as much as they needed men.

I have chosen not to be a part of a woman’s network up to now. I have to say that I have frequently been embarrassed by the behaviour at some of these events, and more importantly believe that respect is earned from the work I do, and yet I think today I understand the reason for them just a little bit more.

So why have I changed my mind? Why do I still feel we have a way to go?

A few months ago I walked into a room as part of an assessment centre and for the very first time since that paramedic interview back in 1989, I felt instantly intimidated by the men in the room. I cannot explain why as it was purely a feeling I had which I could not even quantify. This was far from the first assessment centre I have attended and as an assessor I have worked with many external colleagues, so the situation was not unusual for me. I simply felt intimidated. (And yes I failed that exercise spectacularly)

And then I met a couple of men who wanted to talk about how great they are, to preen themselves like a peacock and be in control of the conversation,  whereas I just want to do the best job I can quietly. Again I had this underlying feeling, nothing I can pinpoint, but talking with them, I simply felt as though I was inferior to them. It saddened me. Saddened me to think I could still be made to feel like that after 29 years in the same organisation.

Is this just men? No to be honest it isn’t.. I do know the odd woman who is like this. But they are in the minority. In the past, they felt they had to be like that to stand in the mans world. Most of us now would say, lets just be ourselves because difference is good.  By far, my most admired and brilliant colleagues, who have my utmost respect for the outstanding job they do, take a backseat, get on with the job because they care and they are simply better in every way. Male and female – They simply do not have the same need for adulation. They simply do their job quietly, effectively and brilliantly.

So back to the question – Have we truly been accepted?

We have come a really long way. We have climbed mountains to get here….and I genuinely believe police officers are the most adaptable, tolerating, genuinely open and accepting of everyone regardless of colour, race, gender, non gender, religion and anything else people try to separate us by? We are far ahead of the majority of the people I meet in any other walk of life.

Just some days it feels like we haven’t reached the summit yet.

To all of my female colleagues out there – You know who you are. You are brilliant. We are getting there and more importantly we are getting there with passion, integrity and bloody hard work.

 

 

I’m only Human after all

The words of the Rag and Bone Man, played over and over in my car. My sons current favourite song.

As I drove home from work last Tuesday after a 16 hr day, never have the words rung more true with me.

I had just spent the day coming to terms with the terrorist incident the night before. 22nd May 2017. Manchester Arena. 22 people dead. Lots more injured. Thousands of lives affected forever. My colleagues dealing with the most horrendous of tragedies. At 9am that morning, I had been in our morning meeting discussing the Ariane Grande concert…. ” we won’t get any trouble from that” I remember saying as someone much younger than me with daughters, explained who she was. How wrong could I have been?

We have said many times that officers run in, as others run out. Of course this was true here as well, but this time, the public were running in to help us, to help tend the injuries, help hold the frightened children until their parents could be found, help police carry the injured to the ambulances.

I wont describe the details. It is just too raw. but suffice to say, the scene was one of utter chaos, and yet, and here is the bit that made me so very proud….. Every single police officer doing exactly what was needed, every single police officer with a member of the public, with an injured person, trying to save lives, supporting whoever needed it.

As you will know, the whole of Manchester has pulled together to support those affected. Police officers have been looked after, being able to accept food and drink from anyone offering it. We are not allowed to do this normally, but in these circumstances, and just for now, not only did everyone want to help, but we accepted that help. The applause as we walked past the public, difficult for us to deal with, but so welcome. The cameras in our faces as we laid flowers and paid our own respects were a different story – I fought the urge to push them away.

Everyone who helped had humanity and wanted to ensure that LOVE and not HATE won over. They wanted to do their bit to support everyone in any way they could. Why – because its what we do. In Manchester, in London, in Paris, in New York, and also in Syria, in Iraq, in Columbia, in Thailand, in Northern Ireland.

We are all only human after all.

And here is the point, Police Officers are only human too. Members of our police service were at the concert. One police officer was killed. They had their children there, they know people seriously injured.

This week, brand new student officers through to the most experienced of detectives and many senior officers, have done their bit to manage this investigation, from the initial scene, through to supporting each other, from exhibits through to the long process of supporting families, from now through to….. well when does it end? At the conclusion of the investigation? As we move onto new posts? As the families continue living their lives without us? The reality, I believe, is never. It will never end.

Our officers will continue attending assaults and sudden deaths. They will continue listening to people complaining about the children playing football on their streets. They will continue seeing children carrying knives to protect themselves. They will continue picking up drunks off the street. They will continue to deliver the worst news ever to families. And so it goes on. They will all have their breaking point. That point when a memory flashes back, and they cannot, for that second, or maybe for months, push it away again.

As we start to take a break from the long hours and cancelled rest days, we each pause, exhausted and the tears flow. But then we pick ourselves up and go again.

This week I have been proud to know those individuals who were first to the scene, proud to wear this uniform, proud to be a part of GMP, proud to be a part of the BEST police service in the world without exception and proud to be Mancunian.

Please continue looking after each other. We’re only human after all.

#Itookhome the best job in the world

So today social media has been brought alive with the above hashtag.

I do not intend to repeat everyone’s memories here. Please read them on Twitter. They are more powerful when written by the individual who felt them.

The lack of detectives is a genuine concern felt by all of us in the service and sadly the original intention of the media interview which led to the hashtag, is now overshadowed. To suggest firstly that response officers only deal with 999 calls, and secondly to suggest they do not take work home with him, shows how out of touch with reality the comment is.

All areas of the police service need resources. All areas of the fire service, nursing, social services, mental health services and paramedics require additional resources. That fact is well known.

Equally the truth is that every police force works differently. Recent transferees to my own force have highlighted the fact that they are not omnicompetent officers, as ours have a need to be. Therefore the idea that a response officer attends only 999 calls may well be true in some areas of the country. I don’t know. I doubt it! But I do absolutely know that there isn’t a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, doctor or nurse, who has not taken home what they have seen. None of them go home and immediately switch off because their part in an incident has finished. None of them do 40 hrs and switch off.

I am proud to be a part of our police service, and proud to be a part of our emergency services and public sector. We are THE best in the world. (Though I met some pretty incredible officers from the USA this weekend as well at the Thinbluelineuk ball)

The cuts under austerity have doubled the actual headcount loss. Why? Because every one of us gives far more than we are paid to do. We live and breathe our careers. It matters to us. The public matter to us. Helping the public IS really why we joined our chosen professions. It is why we continue to do it no matter what.

So yes, I have taken home lots in my head I hope my children will never have to see but I will never complain about that. I chose to do it. I am privileged to do it. I am privileged to be allowed in your lives when it really matters, and sometimes at the most difficult of times.

My colleagues are the hardest working, most dedicated, professional individuals I have met – ALL of them – Detectives, uniformed officers, neighbourhood officers, PCSO’s, Special constables, traffic officers, family liaison officers, armed officers, specialist public protection officers….. The list goes on and on. They all have memories that live with them forever. Fortunately some of those are fun and happy memories.

#itookhome the best job in the world.

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