back to top

24 Secrets British Police Officers Will Never Tell You

The smells. Dear god, the terrible smells.

Posted on

1. People really don't understand what PCs do. At all.

Universal Pictures

"You're a bobby? So, you just walk around and stuff?" Er, not unless you'd describe dealing with burglaries, accidents, suicides, assaults, vehicle crime, neighbour disputes, stabbings, shootings, sudden deaths, pub fights, missing people, hate crimes, school fights, protests, frauds, and riots as "just walking around".

2. People call us out for the most pointless, trivial, and ludicrous reasons.

imgur.com

"My kid won't do his homework." "I have an eBay dispute." "I don't like this person's Facebook status." Usually the 999 call handlers filter this kind of stuff out, but occasionally people (parents in particular) will exaggerate an issue because they want uniformed officers to come to their house.

3. We spend a lot of time dealing with wasted people.

imgur.com

Mainly stopping them pissing in alleyways, offering first aid, or restraining them so they can't assault us or passersby. Booze makes people very bolshy. And it's not just teenagers on nights out: The worst people tend to be found wearing suits in business districts, off their face from too many after-work white wines.

4. Which means we have to get used to dealing with barf, piss, and shit as a result.

Matt Cardy / Getty Images

No one warns you about the smells you have to deal with. Have you ever been in a small car with a guy who just shat himself? If you have, you never forget it. And yes, we sometimes have to let drunk people throw up in our hats and helmets.

Advertisement

5. Our uniform does tend to calm most situations though.

Carl Court / AFP / Getty Images

When we're called out to a pub, a noisy party, or a domestic dispute, people suddenly get this look on their face. An "oh fuck" sort of look, to put it bluntly. Drunk people tend to sober up a bit. Even people who claim not to like the police tend to calm down and shut up. After all, they don't want to be arrested.

6. We get tired of listening to the same crap excuses.

imgur.com

Mainly because we've heard them all a thousand times. "I was speeding because I have to go to the toilet!" "I wasn't stealing it, I thought it was free!" ("It" was a flatscreen TV.) And the old favourite "I'm not drunk – I crashed because the sun was in my eyes." On a cloudy day? Hmmm.

7. It's not like The Wire, or even Life on Mars. In fact, it can be pretty damn boring at times.

imgur.com

Monitoring a queue of football supporters to make sure they behave? Boring. Attending a break-in and then having to wait around for hours for the house to be secured by the council? Boring. Filling in forms? Zzzzzz. Most of us prefer the more dramatic or dangerous callouts: At least then there's something to do.

8. Returning missing people home is a particular highlight.

Christof Stache / AFP / Getty Images

Especially when it's a baby, child, or teenager, or someone who's been missing for a long time. The sheer joy on their loved ones' faces is incredible to see.

Advertisement

9. If you want to keep going out every Friday and Saturday night, don't bother becoming a PC.

imgur.com

A PC's typical working pattern usually involves around three rotating shifts: Earlies (starting at about 5am), lates, and nights (starting at around 9pm). This includes weekends and bank holidays like Christmas Day, so your social life takes a real hit as a result. Having said that, it's something you do get used to...eventually.

10. We sometimes have to let go of friendships. Or, more often, friends let go of us.

imgur.com

When you join the force it quickly becomes clear that you can't associate with some of your oldest, dodgiest friends any more. And others ditch you as well. That coke-huffing uni mate? Well, you won't see them for dust, so to speak.

11. Dating is pretty tricky too.

Getty / Chris Jackson

Anyone you get together with has to be seriously understanding. If you've arranged a date and you get caught up in a developing situation during your shift, you'll have to deal with that before leaving, meaning you'll have to cancel at short notice. There's quite a high breakup rate in the force because of this.

12. It isn't all doom and gloom though.

Getty

You do get chances to have a laugh on duty, and the friendships you build up can be really solid. That means there's always someone willing to go out for a drink in the hours that fit round your shifts; also, if you happen to find a partner within the police (and plenty of us do), they'll understand what it's like and be supportive.

Advertisement

13. We don't put our sirens on because we're "late for our tea".

imgur.com

Sure, maybe some PCs in the '70s and '80s did abuse their sirens, but all police cars these days have a black box inside them that records everything the vehicle does: every time the sirens are turned on, braking, collisions, speed, etc. If we get caught speeding when we're not on a call, we get in serious trouble.

14. We see things that are deeply sad and harrowing, but we have to just push through it.

imgur.com

The worst callouts of all are accidents or crimes involving children, but you have to stay as calm, confident, in control, and reassuring as possible for the sake of survivors and get through it as best you can without showing too much emotion. However, we do get to talk it through afterwards in the debriefing session.

15. Breaking the news that a loved one has died is one of the worst parts of the job.

Matthew Horwood / Getty Images

We call these callouts "death warnings", or sometimes "death notifications". No one wants to open their door to a police uniform when they know a loved one hasn't come home on time. We get death education and training to help us break the news sensitively and support the family in the immediate aftermath.

16. "Domestics" seriously suck as well.

imgur.com

You're in people's houses (usually with at least one person who really doesn't want you there) dealing with screaming adults and crying children, and you have to remain impartial and nonjudgmental. It can be hard to get any sense out of anyone about what happened, and often at the end of it all the victim won't leave the dangerous situation or press charges. It always feels frustrating and troubling.

Advertisement

17. As does seeing the same offenders time and time again.

AMC

You get to know the local troublemakers and criminals. Every month we arrest them, go through all of that bureaucracy, build a case, submit intelligence, put them before a judge...and see them walk free. But the worst thing is knowing we'll have to go through it all again a month later. It's incredibly frustrating.

18. But the worst thing of all are the problems you just can't fix.

Alamy

When you first start the job you're sure you can fix anything, but it doesn't take long to figure out that isn't the case. Racists will keep being racist, and neighbours will get along for a few days then go back to fighting over their fence. There's some stuff you just can't fix in a 20-minute callout.

19. The bureaucracy is insane.

Scott Barbour / Getty Images

Say a PC arrests a shoplifting suspect at the beginning of his or her shift. They're then tied up dealing with that for the next eight hours. They have to wait to get into the custody area, record the crime, write a statement, maybe arrange for an interpreter, fill in forms to request CCTV footage... The list is endless. And dull.

20. We really worry about public perception.

imgur.com

We know that things sometimes go wrong with frontline policing in the UK, but the vast majority of PCs are ordinary people who want to serve and protect their community and are trying to do a good job. There are a lot of misconceptions, and they really bother and upset us. We're people, just like you.

Advertisement

21. You can never shake off the constant threat of injury or death.

Tim Bradbury / Getty Images

Take acts of terrorism, for example. If something happens in a major city, we'll be the ones heading toward it while at the same time telling the public to stay away. And then you've got the risk of being in a traffic accident while driving at high speeds. You push it to the back of your mind, but it's always there.

22. We're trained in some self-defence, and we try our best.

imgur.com

People think we must be next-level kung fu experts when it comes to dealing with violent incidents, but in fact our training (Unarmed Defensive Tactics) just focuses on pressure points, holds, and how to use them to gain control of a suspect. So when things kick off and fists start flying, we just have to do the best we can.

23. The best part of the job really is helping people.

imgur.com

As cheesy as it sounds, knowing you’ve rescued or helped someone in their time of need is the most satisfying, rewarding thing about our difficult (and sometimes thankless) job. After all, we signed up because we actually give a shit about people.

24. And being thanked makes it all worthwhile.

Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

Getting a thank-you letter from someone whose life you've touched always makes our day. Knowing that there are people out there who appreciate the work we do goes a long way to making up for all of the misconceptions and public negativity. It almost makes up for all the barf and piss as well. But not quite.

This post was compiled with the help of a Scottish police constable; also H/T blogger Canis Lupus PC.