Realising his potential – Detective Sergeant Graeme Allen
Age at joining: 52
Years in service: 10
We’ve recently spoken with Graeme Allen, Detective Sergeant in our Policing Strategy Unit. Graeme was a late starter, coming into policing with TVP at 52, having had a former career in Healthcare IT implementing paperless hospitals in Malaysia and South Africa. As Graeme would say, he is not the typical recruit, but living proof that a change of career is not only possible, but very enjoyable, and we wanted to learn more about his journey.
Is this the path you always expected to take in your career?
No, not at all. I was a police officer during my student days in Northern Ireland but my wife to be wasn’t happy with it, she didn’t like the risk, so I didn’t pursue a police career at that stage. I then moved into IT and then into healthcare IT, and that’s where I expected to stay until I finished working. However, the opportunity presented itself to join policing in my 50s and I went for it, and I have to say I’ve never really looked back. I got so excited when they told me I could join. I kept asking them “Are you sure?” After I applied, it all happened very quickly, next thing I knew I was in Sully (TVP’s training centre) sitting in a training classroom.
How do you feel you have been realising your career in policing?
I think I have made the most of it because I have always known from the start that I had very limited time until I would have had to retire. I started as an ICR officer, as everybody does and that was brilliant, I loved it, apart from the late night Fridays and Saturdays. Then I moved quite quickly, did my exams, moved departments, because I knew I didn’t have time to waste. I had to keep moving, but the opportunities are terrific and I have no regrets. I’ve been a PC, a DC and now a DS.
What do you think about the range of opportunities that are available in policing?
The range is absolutely vast, there are so many things you could do. In my weaker moments, I wish I was a 21 year old again. If you like the response role, you can stay there. If you like the detective role, you can stay there. If you like responsibility, you can get promoted, but even within the uniformed role there are so many different things you can do: you could move into roads policing; you could move into firearms; just so many different things for so many different types of people. So many options, so little time!
What are your ambitions for your career now?
I’m getting to the latter end of my career but my ambitions would be to continue what I’m doing. I would like, if it’s possible, to try an inspector role, even if it’s only for a short time, so I can say I tried it before I retire. But having said that, I’m happy, I’m satisfied with what I have achieved in the short time that I’ve been in policing.
You’re a Detective Sergeant, but you’re transitioning to a new role. What is the new role?
I’m now in the Policing Strategy Unit. I was previously a Detective Sergeant in charge of the Domestic Abuse Unit in Cherwell for three years.
In my new role, I’m trying to make things better for the frontline, and by that, to help people. Helping people is for me the primary purpose of being a police officer. You’re here to sort things out, to fix things, to help people and make a difference.
Is there anything you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career in policing?
Whilst I was doing my training, the trainers gave me a piece of advice at the time which I’ve never forgotten, and which I always pass on to student officers when I get the chance: “when you start your career and you work with a team of officers, find the officers in your team that are good, who do the job right and model yourself on them.”
Also, don’t expect an easy ride because there are no shortcuts; you have to do what you have to do to get to the next stage. You’ve got to do your time in uniform, do 10 or 12 hour shifts, patrol the streets, stand at a scene watch at 3:00am on a freezing cold Saturday morning with the snow coming down; it’s part of the role and you’ve got to get through it. But having said that, as a career, as a way of life, it’s worth it, if you’re prepared to put the time and the effort in, it’s a brilliant job.
What do you love most about your job?
My outlook on life, my reason for joining, has always been to help people. Now you’ve probably heard that 100 times but virtually every police officer that I know will tell you exactly the same: we joined to help people, we joined to make a difference.
I didn’t necessarily join to put baddies behind bars, but if by putting somebody behind bars I’ve helped my victims, that’s what I do. I’ve also seen victims when they’ve not been put behind bars, when the case failed at court. And yet they were able to tell me “thanks very much, you believed me”. And it gets me right here. That’s what I joined for.
I can remember a particular child abuse case involving a little girl. She arrived clinging to her father. She was absolutely terrified, something fairly frightening had happened to her; myself and another officer sat them down and talked to them. Over a period of about 45 minutes, we gained her trust. We got her to talk to us. We arranged to do a VRI (video recorded interview), and when she left she walked out. She wasn’t carried out. She walked out with her father and she was chatting away. And to me, that’s what it was really all about.
What would you say to people considering policing?
Go for it! Absolutely, there are no shortcuts, but put in the effort and you will be rewarded. If you have a good attitude and a good reputation in the police, you will get noticed and you will be rewarded.
As a Police Officer, if something happens then you go and tackle it. You don’t have a choice, you respond. So if you think you’re joining the police for an easy ride for a comfortable job, think again. But if you are prepared to put up with the hardships, then you’ll find the job really is rewarding. You’ll find your niche. There’s no other job like it, right? It just sounds really corny when you say it out loud, but actually it’s true.
Thames Valley Police (TVP) is actively looking for people to be the difference they want to see in their communities. To find out more about a policing career with TVP – including the realities of working on response, initial training, and to apply to become a Police Officer please visit our Police Officer page