Laura is a constable working for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Growing up in a community where a number of her friends and family had strong feelings against the police, Laura was apprehensive about the security risks before she joined. While she has to take care of her personal security, she’s found that the environment within the Police Service is totally different than she expected.
Here, Laura tells us about working as a constable within the PSNI.
As a response officer, on a day to day basis I deal with volume crime and emergency incidents. At one point in the day I may be dealing with a simple neighbour dispute then get rerouted to a serious incident such as an injury road traffic collision or a volatile member of the public intending on harming himself or others, often involving weapons. On days were I am not responding to a large volume of incidents I spend as much time as possible engaging with the community to reassure the public when there have been incidents in their area, and to catch up on paperwork. The role of a response officer is varied, and often unpredictable. I must be prepared for any eventuality, and it is impossible to plan which calls and incidents I could be attending.
To help you understand the variety of the role and some of the scenarios you may face as a constable, we have included ‘a day in the life of’ three constables working in various stations in Northern Ireland and on different shifts.
"A Day in the Life of a constable" – Morning shift
06.45am – I arrive at my station and change into uniform for briefing at the start of duty.
07.00am – Briefing by the Duty Sergeant commences. Our Sergeant updates us on what has occurred since our last shift, and details what each officer is responsible for in their shift, along with our specific tasks. I am detailed to patrol the area with another constable in a police car and respond to calls – what we call ‘response’.
07.20am – Before leaving the station on patrol I take some time to plan ahead for the day with a list of outstanding enquiries I have to make on my ongoing investigations. I need to collect a number of witness statements and some CCTV footage from a local business.
09.00am – I visit a number of houses in the area to collect witness statements on a robbery which took place in a local petrol station recently. Only some of the witnesses are at home, so I go on to an adjacent business to collect CCTV footage of the incident.
10.30am – I respond to a report of a teenage male who had come home under the influence of alcohol, and had become violent towards his family. Upon arrival the male was causing damage to his mother’s house. The family had been safely removed from the house due to the male’s volatile behaviour, he was contained inside for his own and our safety. He proceeded to attack the response team by throwing various objects out at officers and was verbally abusive. At this stage I called for assistance from Armed Response officers, who specialise in these types of incidents. Through negotiation from myself, and tactics used by specialist officers the male was removed from the home and arrested for a number of offences. Afterwards, I spent time with the family offering them help and support through various agencies including social services and drug/alcohol abuse charities.
1:00pm – I return to the station and get my lunch.
1.20pm – I update my paperwork and the computer system. This is a really important part of our job, making sure that everyone in the Service can access information on incidents.
2:15pm – I respond to a report of a two vehicle road traffic collision. On attendance, I observed one vehicle upside down on its roof in the middle of the road. I immediately tasked ambulance service and proceeded to provide first aid to the injured drivers, one of whom was still in the vehicle. Once the ambulance arrived, I collected witness details and listened to verbal accounts of the incident. I then proceeded to draw a sketch of the area. I spent time directing traffic and assisting other call signs. I then collected details of the drivers to assist me with the investigation to follow.
4.00pm – I am tasked to respond to a call of domestic abuse at a home in the local community. We arrive and try to diffuse the situation. I often find that being a female officer is an advantage in these situations, as victims of domestic abuse (male or female) seem more willing to open up to a female. Once the situation is under control, we make an arrest. We’ll come back later in the day to collect a witness statement from the victim.
6.00pm – I return to the station with the alleged perpetrator of the abuse in custody. It’s now past the scheduled end of my shift, but I stay and help to interview the suspect.
7.30pm – I finish my shift and head home. I have to be up early tomorrow to do it all over again!
"A Day in the Life of a constable" - Afternoon / Evening shift
1.45pm – I arrive at my station and change into uniform for briefing at the start of duty.
2.00pm – Briefing by the Duty Sergeant, where we are informed of our duties, who we are working with for the day and any ongoing problems or incidents that require further action from the previous shift. These can be anything from youths causing annoyance, complaints of anti-social behaviour, thefts, criminal damage or anything else that did not require an immediate police response. There is nothing today so it is straight out on patrol. I am detailed to patrol the area in a patrol car with another constable and respond to calls.
2.45pm – First call of the day - an assault. On average I end up making an arrest in half the assault incidents I get sent to. In this case an arrest is required. The next 3 hours are spent booking the person into custody, preparing for and carrying out an interview and getting the person charged to go to court. Sometimes it can be quicker than this, but more often it can take longer, especially if the suspect is drunk or uncooperative.
6.00pm – Meal Break - due to the nature of the job you take your breaks when you can. Some days like today I have time to take a proper break, but on occasions if you are dealing with an emergency, you may have to do without.
6.45pm – It’s the end of rush hour and I get sent to a traffic collision, luckily this one is damage only and no one is hurt. I spend 40 minutes dealing with it but sometimes it can be much longer if there are injuries or multiple vehicles involved. It’s also dry today which is a big help - dealing with collisions in the rain can be tough going.
7.30pm – When there is no specific incident to deal with I try to follow up on my investigations or carry out ‘Tactical Patrolling’. Tactical Patrolling is where we concentrate on areas which have high crime rates such as burglaries, or road traffic problems such as collisions and speeding, or public order and anti-social behaviour problems. Each Police District has set objectives and ‘Tactical Patrolling’ helps to achieve these. This evening I am aware we have an ongoing dispute between neighbours that could turn nasty so we pay attention to let them know that police are about.
8.18pm – I call at an address to take a short statement from a witness but the person is not at home, I resume ‘Tactical Patrolling’.
9.05pm – It’s around this time that we often get alcohol related calls either in the town centre or in some of the local estates. Most of the time a common sense approach allows everyone to go home happy and arrests are only made in extreme cases to ensure public safety. Tonight a police presence is enough to keep everyone quiet and no offences are committed.
10.00pm – Change Over – the night shift take over and we have an hour to clear up any outstanding calls and necessary paperwork.
11.00pm – Duty over for another day, thankfully it was quiet and I get away on time. Sometimes if you make an arrest or are involved in an emergency you can end up working on into the night.
"A Day in the Life of a constable" - Night shift
8.45pm – I arrive at my station and change into uniform for briefing at the start of duty.
9.00pm – Briefing by the Duty Sergeant commences relating to any areas of concern, what has occurred since our last duty and detailing of each constable for the night shift along with our specific duties. I am detailed to patrol the local area in a patrol car with another constable and respond to calls. At the briefing I am given a ‘breach of bail pack’ relating to a local male who was electronically tagged. He has breached his curfew set by the court and is to be arrested. I go straight out to the address given for the male but he is not at home.
9.25pm – We are sent to a noisy party in the university area where a call has come in from an elderly resident complaining of high noise levels and both music and shouting. I speak to the elderly resident and then go to the house where the noise is coming from. As part of a community initiative in the area I highlight to those at the party that the university will be informed that the police have received a complaint. This quickly resolves the noise issue and I leave after obtaining the relevant details required to update police records.
10.10pm – I call back to the address of the male who has breached bail, still no reply.
10.33pm – A call from a member of the public regarding a domestic dispute comes in and is passed to me. I attend the address to find a female with her two young children in the premises, the female is Polish. She has visible injuries to her arms. With the use of an interpreter via the telephone I find out what has happened and who was responsible. The offender has gone to a nearby shop. A short time later I arrest the male partner of the victim and take him into custody. The offender is dealt with and is detained to go to court the next morning. As part of my investigation I discover he is wanted for other offences.
03.00am – I resume patrol in the area and deal with some anti-social behaviour issues such as people drinking in the street and late night revellers found urinating on the pavement. Some people are given advice and warned about their conduct, others are reported for minor offences. I return to the station to complete my documentation.
04.45am – Having completed the documentation and checks that have arisen from the incidents that I have attended during the night, my colleague and I go back out on patrol. As we drive through the city I see a motorist weaving from one side of the lane to the other in front of me. We stop the vehicle which is being driven by a male who fails a roadside breath test and is arrested. On checking his vehicle through our computer system it is shown to have no insurance. I seize the vehicle for this offence.
05.30am – The gentleman is taken to the nearest police station where he is breathalysed on a very precise machine. It turns out he is just under the legal limit and is released from custody.
06.15am – As I have seized the gentleman's vehicle he has no means of transport so we take him back to his home address and make sure he is aware of the steps he needs to take to get his vehicle back.
06.45am – I return to the police station to hand over the details of the domestic arrest incident I dealt with earlier. Officers coming on duty will take him to court. After completing all my outstanding paperwork and actions I finally finish one hour later than scheduled.