Special Constable Russell Chopping
Whether any of my fellow student officers would have admitted it or not, it’s the one thing we'd all been thinking about since the first day of training. The first arrest. The final part of the training. Putting everything we'd learnt into practice, and quite frankly, not fluffing it up!
So on my 3rd shift fresh out of training still with no first arrest, it was with a sense of nerves, anxiety and excitement that my mentor officer and I made our way to a reported shop lifting incident at a local supermarket. Never being one to ever over dramatize a situation It was with more naïve surprise that on arrival at the location we didn’t find a full scale riot ensuing and in actual fact was met with a rather pleasant and chatty suspect detained without particular complaint by the store staff.
Theft is an offence that is far too common in our communities. It doesn’t matter if its theft from a multi-billion pound business or from a small family run store, theft is still an offence. Following a brief discussion with the store manager and the suspect in question, it quickly became apparent that an arrest would be the most suitable course of action. Removing the suspect from store would most definitely prevent any further issues and allow us to establish the exact identity of our suspect, which was still in some question.
Having cautioned my suspect (and not fluffed it up… Yeayyyy!!!) we decided against using handcuffs and walked our prisoner to the car. At this point I'm in full police officer mode. I've anecdotes of escaping prisoners whirling through my head and the words of our instructors ringing in my ears; "Never let your prisoner escape! it can be very embarrassing to explain back at the station". I'm fully expecting confrontation, I'm fully expecting force to be required, I'm fully expecting to be in a difficult and challenging situation, again, maybe over dramatizing a bit…
What I did not expect was the incident to develop into a full medical emergency.
Within a few minutes of securing ourselves for the journey to custody, our prisoner's demeanour quickly began to change. From being relatively chatty and accepting of the situation, to being very drowsy and at times fully unresponsive, the medical training we've received only weeks before came flooding back to me. Keep the patient talking, consider recovery position, and monitor breathing, request assistance. On arrival at custody it was now becoming a real challenge for the person to even stand.
Flagging my concerns to the custody sergeant we quickly engaged the onsite medical team.
The prisoner has now become a patient.
In the blink of an eye our role changed from law enforcement to medical care. The prisoner was clearly having a medical emergency. Having put a call into South Central Ambulance Service, I then began working with the medical team to make the patient comfortable and ensure the airway remained open - recovery position.
The Paramedic crew arrived without delay, and we all worked seamlessly together to transfer the patient to the waiting vehicle. I supported the crew on the journey to the local A&E and assisted where required to restrain the patient. The crew confirmed this was an overdose scenario, and the administration of appropriate medication had an immediate and dramatic effect.
I then found myself working to ensure the safety of the medical team, calming the patient where I could and restraining as appropriate to make sure we all remained safe. Rushing straight into A&E resus, the mood changed once again. The brilliant medical team were their instantly. Assessing the situation quickly and professionally administering further treatment.
And with that, our role changes back to one of law enforcement. The patient was still our responsibility and so it remained for the next 6 hours whilst we waited for the outcome of the treatment and for our replacement's to arrive so we could grab that much needed cup of tea and of cause my all-important bed.
It struck me that within the blink of an eye and without me even noticing, over a period of a couple of short months I'd changed my role from Dad, Husband and IT technologies manager to a student Special Constable to an Attested Constable under the Crown, to a Medical Provider working to protect life.
As a Special Constable for Thames Valley Police I had rather naively anticipated we would simply be supporting the amazing regular officers, fetching and carrying, a supporting role to the real work of policing. How wrong could I have been? Specials are there to be an integral part of the team.
It's challenging work and not for all of us, I've a long way to go on my journey, but I can honestly say hand on heart I've never ever done a job so genuinely rewarding.
It is quite literally, a job like no other, always expect the unexpected!