‘It is not only about catching the bad guys’ – A day in the life of Norfolk Police
- Credit: Archant
They are there to protect, reassure and enforce the law. And they do it all in an environment of ever increasing pressure. But what is it really like to walk in the shoes of a Norfolk police officer? Reporter Rebecca Murphy spent two shifts with Breckland Police.
A domestic, criminal damage, assault and fraud are just some of the many ongoing investigations and cases under the control of PC Daniel Mather.
During his 7am and 7pm Friday shift he will have hoped to have made progress with some of them, while also balancing crimes allocated by superiors and the jobs that he is called out to during the day.
Sitting with the officers at Thetford Police Station I soon realise how much of a workload each officer has.
From Thetford the officers will cover an area up to Attleborough but could be called to help in Dereham if required. And as soon as they start to work on one thing something else then pops up.
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On the way up the A134 to Mundford to carry out enquiries, PC Mather and PC Amy Lucas are called to respond to an incident in Thetford. We turn around and head back but as we reach the A11 Brandon Road roundabout we are stood down.
Joining the A11 to once again head out to Mundford we spot a horse loose on the opposite side of the carriageway.
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Luckily another police car is heading in that direction and will be able to start guiding the horse to safety as PC Mather puts the sirens and lights on and expertly guides the police car up the fast lane.
Despite the flashing and the noise, one van driver did not appear to have any urgency in moving over to allow an emergency vehicle to move past, while another pulls out on us at a roundabout. I'm told this is an every day occurrence.
As PC Mather negotiates the police car in front of the traffic, he starts a rolling road block before bringing it to a standstill. A couple of good Samaritans had stopped to help the officer with the horse who is led safely back to his field.
Speed is of the essence, a busy road like the A11 can't be closed for long otherwise traffic chaos ensures.
Within 10 minutes the traffic is once again flowing and we're on our way to pick up another job – a member of the public has reported suspected drug dealing - and Mundford will have to wait.
While taking on these incidents PC Mather, who started as a PCSO and became a PC in 2015, is clock watching as he has an appointment booked in with the victim of a crime back at the station. Not making it, or the victim missing the appointment, could push back building up a case.
'I don't think people realise how much we have got in the background,' he said. 'Whatever people are calling in about is a bad thing for them but we have to differentiate between what is high risk.
'You go and do enquiries, and then you get called out, and then you go back two or three times.'
He added: 'I do enjoy my job and I look forward to coming into work. I have always wanted to be a police officer. I was one of those kids who wanted to join when they were six-years-old.'
The person PC Mather had intended to meet has rearranged another appointment and so we're off to Mundford again.
When we finally make it to the village, we're there for around 20 minutes when we are again interrupted by the control room. This time an alarm is going off at a petrol station in Thetford.
On go the blue lights and sirens and we make it past the Lynford Stag on the A134 before we are again stood down. And back we go to Mundford.
It's a stressful job that requires an officer to drop the enquiries they were making to attend a more serious incident. That serious incident could take up most of their shift, but those dropped enquires and the other cases and investigations an officer has will have to be picked back up again.
One minute an officer could be attending a serious car accident, and then a few hours later they could reunite a missing dog with its owner.
While helping someone they can also come up against people who are abusive and threatening and aid in making an already difficult job that much harder.
PC Lucas, Breckland Police's Community Engagement officer, said: 'We have to go to a really sad incident, and we are human beings, and are then expected to snap out of it and go to another.'
She said the way she polices and interacts with people is how she 'would expect my family to be dealt with'.
She added: 'It is not only about catching the bad guys, that is a massive part, but it is about looking after the community and the victims and making a difference.'
After a busy 12-hour shift - although I am told it can be far busier - PC Lucas' day was not finished. She was off to award local Cubs with positive notices, which recognises acts of good behaviour by young people.
Another example of community policing.
The officers are back on Saturday night for what is set to be a busy Saturday night shift. From 6pm until 5am, the team of five PCs and two sergeants will respond to whatever may happen across Thetford and Attleborough.
A Public Order Team made up of eight police students, specials and PCs will deal with big disturbances including fights and pub and drink-related incidents.
What is surprising is the number of different incidents they can be called to. They responded to domestics, a burglary and to an elderly gentleman who believed a person was trying to enter their house.
The first call of the night for the two officers I was with was a house fire in Jasmine Close, Thetford.
Fire crews had put out the flames by the time we had arrived but the roof had been gutted by the fire.
Just as we were sitting down to get a bite to eat, we were called to an incident taking place in the Methwold area.
A van had failed-to-stop for police and a pursuit was taking place.
The blue lights and sirens go on and off we go up the A134.
All the time we are listening to the updates from the officers taking part in the pursuit and the information from control.
The occupants of the van have made a run for it after driving down a fire route, and the police cars coming to the incident are asked to form a containment around the area to stop them escaping.
It is something quite thrilling to be a part of, but it also showed me how important team work and communication is.
There were police officers from different areas of Breckland and King's Lynn, a police dog unit and a police helicopter, who were all involved.
The ground officers were relaying information to the helicopter and vise versa.
In the end, one of the van's occupants was found in woodland after the helicopter's heat-seeking camera picked him up. And an arrest was made.
Police officers never know what a Saturday night shift can bring.
From drunken fights to serious crashes they can experience a number of different incidents.
One unit were sent to check on an elderly and vulnerable man who had called 999 believing someone was attempting to get into his house.
They did a check of the area and the man's house and then offered to make him a cup of tea to calm him down.
The next stop found them patrolling around Thetford town centre when they saw a woman lying on the floor.
She had a head injury and the PC and sergeant had to wait for an hour with the woman while the ambulance arrived.
The woman started being aggressive in the ambulance and so the two officers had to accompany her to the hospital.
Any one of those incidents could take two officers out of action for a couple of hours and leave the remaining units stretched. But one thing is for sure, throughout everything, the officers remain professional.