‘There can be no walking away’ – Suffolk sergeant’s blog paints revealing picture of police life
Ali Livingstone’s blog describes the challenges of dealing with danger and tragedy – sometimes against a background of media criticism and public scepticism.
Almost a decade has passed since he and a colleague saved the life of a suicidal man in Ipswich. Despite the positive outcome, the memory haunted him for months.
Little more than a year ago, the same pair dragged a woman from a burning building – an act of bravery that won them a national bravery award nomination.
An officer for almost half his life, since the age of 18, Sgt Livingstone is now a response sergeant, public order tactical advisor, crisis negotiator, Taser officer and police search adviser.
“A lot of people are unaware of exactly what we do,” he said.
“It’s largely a positive thing, because it means they haven’t been exposed to crime or tragedy.
“Before I joined the force, I too was unaware of the full extent of what I’d deal with. Those first experiences were eye-opening.
“The rescue of a man in Ipswich definitely traumatised me. For eight to 10 months, I’d wake in the middle of the night and it was the first thing I’d think about. For a long time, I couldn’t move on from it, even though it was a positive experience in terms of result.
“There is nothing of more value than being able to save a life – but it can expose you to real pressure, and trauma if things go awry.
“There are times every cop will ask ‘do I want to be doing this job?’ – but the tough times make the successes more rewarding.”
Sgt Livingstone praised the use of the Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) system, which originated in the military and offers peer-to-peer support.
“Once you become aware of the signs of trauma, most people can identify with it,” he said.
“Knowing you have public support makes a huge difference. That’s balanced by the scrutiny we should rightly be under.
“Over the years, we’ve had to earn that support more and more.
“We have to ensure our actions stand up to scrutiny.”
The introduction of body-worn cameras is expected to help ensure interactions between the police and public are more transparent.
Sgt Livingstone said: “It’s the best piece of equipment I’ve ever been issued. It improves interaction with the public and often has an immediate calming effect.”
An extract from Sgt Livingstone’s latest blog:
I have been a front line police officer for almost two decades and have seen things that people should never see, some of which will never leave me.
Patrolling around, I pass significant locations every day which remind me of some of the most tragic events I’ve had to deal with.
Has it changed me? Yes, irreversibly and profoundly.
Does it make me appreciate the good things that little bit more? Of course.
The challenge we face is to motivate people to take on these acts head-on and not shy away from them. I am not ashamed to admit that sometimes I have moments when I feel battle weary and just want to walk away and enjoy the other part of my life but that’s what makes police officers who they are.
There can be no walking away, no giving up, no turning our backs. Society relies on us to ensure that they don’t have to be exposed to what we are – and when they are, we are there to comfort them and help them through it.
Visit sergeantlivingstone.wordpress.com to read more.
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