Unpredictability is pretty much the only thing about police work that can be predicted with any certainty.
Even the simplest ambitions for a shift get thrown out the window when you walk into the station and get told ‘such and such has happened, kit up and get on the carrier’.
Such was the case this week when on Wednesday I came into work to first meet someone in the locker room who said “Have you heard, we’re all on until two in the morning?”.
Always preferring to double check, my sergeant says the same as I walked into the office and then there it was on the intranet – all officers now to work twelve hour shifts with immediate effect.
Knowing that there’s no wriggle room when the message has come from one of our Assistant Chief Constables, the next thing that happens is that you suddenly realise you’re going to need to rearrange any plans you had.
The work to-do list is one thing, the real issues come though when officers realise they’re not going to be able to pick up their children from school, they won’t be able to make the evening’s dinner party or the last train home.
A flurry of phone calls follows with partners, probably not for the first time, working out how they’re going to ensure the cat still gets fed that night.
Whilst it’s not uncommon to find officers working an hour or two past the time at which they thought they might have been going home, thankfully blanket shift extensions are much rarer.
Awkward they can be, they do have the effect though of pulling everyone together with officers helping each other cope with the toll of the longer days and lack of rest.
With applications for Specials opening at some point soon and regular recruitment perhaps to follow*, this unpredictable side of the job needs to be factored in when those interested think if the job’s really for them.
The public comes first and they always will – being able to put the public first requires a flexibility that few other jobs will ever call for.
* Nope, haven’t heard anything about us recruiting but will let you know when I do!