PCSO Sarah Ritchie makes a difference in her local community
Role: Police Community Support Officer (PCSO)
Length of service: 16.5 years
What attracted you to policing, and specifically the PCSO role?
I was working in a particularly monotonous and predictable sales admin/customer services role when a Police Officer friend of mine suggested the PCSO role. The variety and scope to take ownership of community issues really appealed, but it was the fact that every day is different that clinched it for me.
What did you do prior to joining TVP, and what transferable skills did you bring?
I worked in a variety of roles before becoming a PCSO. This included check-in for American Airlines, a children’s holiday rep for Thomson Holidays and various reception/sales admin jobs. These roles worked in/around people, using customer service and interpersonal skills, skills which have proven invaluable as a PCSO; enabling me to think and react under pressure (sometimes in emotive circumstances), successfully engage with a variety of people, deescalate potential issues, ensure safety processes are adhered to (especially from a safeguarding perspective), and take ownership of tasks.
How do you feel you make a difference in the local community?
I feel, as a team, we make a difference in the community as we continuously build on our strong relationships with residents (varying backgrounds, ages, situations etc.), as well as partner agencies such as the local council, various charities, schools etc. This allows us to prevent potential issues escalating, alongside being able to quickly identify vulnerable individuals who may need safeguarding, as well as those who may be involved in criminal activity.
What has been your proudest accomplishment as a PCSO?
If I’m completely honest, it’s really hard to pinpoint a specific accomplishment as I’m genuinely really proud to be a PCSO. There is, however, one man who I helped that stands out. He was a vulnerable individual who I engaged with over a number of years, he was homeless, an alcoholic and a drug user. He was behaving out of character one day, so I called an ambulance. As I had got to know him, I was able to confidently tell the paramedics that despite his substance issues his behaviour was abnormal and I insisted that they took him to hospital. It turned out that he had gangrene in his foot, so sepsis had set in, and from that point he spent a long time in hospital, went into rehab and is now clean and working.
He claims myself and my colleague saved his life that day. I don’t feel as though we saved his life as our job is to help people, however this incident really highlighted how familiarity and building relationships within the community is so important in helping protect the public.
How do you feel supported by Thames Valley Police?
Both of my children (ages 16 and 12) were born whilst being a PCSO at TVP and I became a single parent when my youngest was just 9 months old. I was able to reduce my hours to part-time when needed and I personally have never found arranging my shifts to be an issue.
My eldest daughter also has autism/ADHD, and this has a huge impact on my home life as she requires regular appointments. My line manager and Sergeant are, absolutely amazing, they understand and support my welfare needs, providing a kind and listening ear.
What would you say to others considering becoming a PCSO?
As with any frontline role we see and experience some heart wrenching things, however I feel very lucky that the PCSO role is centred on community engagement and building relationships so we’re able to help people change their lives for the better. If you’re looking for a highly rewarding job (with a good home/work balance) where you get out what you put in and are encouraged to try new initiatives to engage and connect with people, just do it! I have made some of my closest friends at TVP and enjoy every aspect of my role.
If Sarah’s story has inspired you to consider a career as a PCSO, visit our PCSO page for further information on how to begin your journey.