Vandyke headteacher Tim Carroll tells of his experience of Bedfordshire Police’s Ride-Along scheme...
I am not too young to remember the BBC’s iconic police drama Dixon of Dock Green. The legendary Jack Warner played George Dixon, an old-style London bobby, who finished each episode straight to camera with a reassuring smile and the comforting words “Goodnight all.”
Police TV dramas have come a long way since those days and tend to reflect today’s more gritty reality. For many of us though it is largely through the prism of television crime drama that we form our view of police work.
Recently I was fortunate enough to spend six hours on patrol in Luton with two police officers. It was a sobering yet inspiring experience and one that made a big impression and that I thoroughly enjoyed. Riding in a marked car around the town I worked with the officers responding to call-outs on a normal evening in Bedfordshire’s largest town.
The Ride-Along scheme is designed to increase the public’s understanding of policing and to build community relations. It is a very good idea and can be accessed via the Bedfordshire Police website.
Before setting out I was given a briefing which was reassuring yet brought home that this was front-line policing and to some degree what lay ahead throughout the evening would be unpredictable. One of the officers carried a taser and outlined how this worked and how it was very, very rarely used. The use of a taser was one experience I was very keen to avoid.
During the evening we attended calls to domestic properties, were involved in three “blue light” jobs, two shop-lifting offences and aided a man who had walked out of a nearby psychiatric hospital ward and was asleep on the town centre pavement.
Instinct told me that the evening’s one brief moment of quiet during which we collected a coffee would be interrupted and so it was as the radio crackled into life and we responded with blue lights in the pursuit of a high performance vehicle whose driver promptly abandoned the car before being apprehended.
I was grateful not to attend a traumatic event such as a serious road traffic accident nor did the officers have to contend with drunken or violent disorder but it was otherwise a routine evening. The officers were generally met with appreciation and respect from the public. The manner and tone of the officers’ interactions commanded respect and conferred on them the authority to do the job.
At the 11pm completion of their shift I was left with only admiration for the way I had seen the officers going about their challenging work; and admiration and thanks for the way they had provided a unique insight for me into their world and looked after me so that at no point did I feel at risk yet was kept close to the action. If you think you might enjoy a similar experience with Bedfordshire Police, I can do no more than offer a whole-hearted recommendation.