Meet The Beat – Sergeant John De-Hayes, Walsall Police Station, Walsall LPU
In this Meet The Beat feature I put some questions to another of West Midlands Police’s social media ‘superstars’, response supervisor Sgt. De-Hayes.
If you’re interested in what he has to say, please check out his regularly updated Twitter feed.
How long have you been in the job and what have you done before you joined your current role?
I joined Leicestershire Constabulary in 1993 and after three years on the streets I moved into CID, where I remained for six years. I then transferred to West Midlands Police in 2002. I was posted to Walsall and apart from a year long stint at Lloyd House (WMP HQ), I’ve been here ever since.
Why did you join the police? What had you done before joining?
Before I joined the police, I did quite a few different jobs, amongst which were working for a finance company, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the DSS (as it was then).
I joined the police to get away from the grind of a 9-5 job and to get some proper job satisfaction. I think it’s safe to say I’ve managed that. The experiences I had in those other careers has proved invaluable during my service.
Tell us about your current role, where do you work, what do you do and what does the work involve?
My current role is as a Response Team sergeant. I’ve been a sergeant since 2004, during which I’ve been posted to the custody block as a custody sergeant and I also did a stint as the Licensing Sergeant for the borough of Walsall. Now, along with a number of colleagues, I am responsible for the support and deployment of one of the five response teams based at Walsall.
On a daily basis, I make sure that sufficient officers are deployed to manage the calls for service that we receive. I also ensure that incidents are managed properly, either by going there myself (which is my preferred method) or by speaking to officers on the radio. Although I’m a supervisor, it doesn’t stop me going out and getting involved in jobs and in the last few weeks I’ve had cause to exercise my power of arrest on a number of occasions!
I’m based at Walsall, but our team covers the whole of the borough. Just because some of our stations are closed to the public at certain times doesn’t mean there aren’t officers out there on patrol. Part of my job is to make sure we’re covering the priority areas, where crimes have been committed or there has been an increase in antisocial behaviour for example.
As well as looking after my team, I have to manage their allocated crime reports to ensure they are investigated promptly. This would be a lot easier if we had the right software, as the current process is very time-consuming and inefficient.
I’m also a public order trained officer, so that means I get to supervise officers deployed to things such as football matches, demonstrations and large public events. During the recent riots in Birmingham, I was in the firing line, having been in two vehicles that were attacked by angry mobs. I don’t think it was anything personal!
When I’m not doing all that and the other stuff we have to do, I’m also a representative for the Police Federation, which is the staff association for all police officers below the rank of superintendent. As a local rep, I help officers with welfare and discipline issues, as well as meet with the senior management team to discuss issues that affect our members. It’s been a very busy few months as we have been active in trying to lobby the government to reconsider their plans for police reform. The Police Federation have been very proactive, suggesting alternative cost cutting measures that don’t reduce the number of officers in forces.
Let’s talk paperwork and files – is it proportionate to the work we do or do you think some of it is unnecessary?
Paperwork is a constant thorn in our side. When I first joined, a prosecution file for a simple case consisted of about five sheets of paper. Over the years, despite the promises that bureaucracy has been cut out, the size of files has increased.
A lot of stuff is now done electronically, but the problem is that our different systems don’t talk to each other, so there is a lot of duplicated data entry. There is a lot of unnecessary administrative work that police officers do, which could be resolved with better IT solutions.
I know there are plans to make our crime recording system virtually paper-free, but this will have a huge impact on some officers who don’t feel comfortable unless they’ve got a clipboard under their arm as they walk around the station.
There are much better ways to record everything we do, rather than commit it to paper. Unfortunately, a change in system always costs money and there isn’t much of it about these days.
What would you say has been the most memorable thing you’ve done or been involved with since you joined the police?
Over the years I’ve been involved in a lot of interesting jobs. The most satisfying was when I worked in a major incident room trying to trace a man responsible for a series of rapes up and down the country. A lot of legwork and months of effort resulted in the suspect being arrested and subsequently convicted.
The problem with police work is that most of the time, we get to see people when they are at the lowest point in their life. Either as a victim or an offender. Very few people are pleased to have us turn up on the doorstep, as it either means something bad has happened or they are about to take a little drive with us.
What does help is knowing that the vast majority of the public support what we do and are pleased to see us out and about. Twitter has been a real eye-opener for me, especially during the riots. The messages of support from all quarters were very welcome and made me realise that there is a huge section of the population that silently support our work and want to appreciate the difficulties that we face sometimes.
The police stereotype is that we all love doughnuts and coffee – is it true?
You’ve asked about doughnuts – I have to say that on my team, there is a bit of a cake culture! We have some very talented pastry chefs and cake makers on my team and it is rare that we have a briefing without some form of sweet confection on offer. It’s a little morale-booster and in moderation, does no harm at all.
In my opinion, the ethos of police officers has changed dramatically since I joined. Officers are now more aware of their physical health and a lot are involved in sporting activities to keep fit. Our team play six a side football whenever we can and I can occasionally be seen on a cycle outside work hours.
Have you ever done any of the following – foot chase across rooftops, driven through a pile of cardboard boxes down a narrow alley, had a rough shift with a partner who only had one day until retirement?
I’ve never run over rooftops, but I did once do a night shift with a dog handler and ended up chasing two burglars through woods for about four hours. We didn’t catch up with them, but as we drove back to the station to finish, we saw two very wet and bedraggled men walking away from where we’d been searching. They had been sitting in a pond for ages to avoid detection and thought it was safe to come out. I’m not sure whether they just gave themselves up so that they could have a lift out of the woods and into a warm dry cell!
Disappointingly, no-one ever seems to leave boxes in any of the alleys I drive down. I think the increase in awareness of recycling may have something to do with it. I was posted to a small market town in Leicestershire that had a very narrow alley running between two of the main streets. It was a standing challenge for all new officers to drive a patrol car through the lane without scraping the wing mirrors. I passed the test, but then the force changed our patrol cars from Fiestas to Escorts, which are a bit wider. You can guess the rest!