Time to move along please

This following paragraph is the gist of an article published in the Evening Chronicle a couple of months ago. 

Following a new round of financial predictions and spending reviews, Northumbria Police face further cuts to their budget.  These cuts cannot be absorbed, as they have in the past, by shrinking the workforce and selling property. The force will have to handle their service delivery in a new way. 

Trying times ahead then, for Chief Constable Steve Ashman, and his officers and staff. 

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, at the beginning of August Mr Ashman received the blow which was to make previous set backs but minnows in a pond. It was the sucker punch, the rug from beneath the feet, the baseball bat to the stomach, the insurmountable crisis………… I handed in my notice. 

The start of my working life was a Saturday job in JG Windows, the renowned music shop in the Central Arcade, Newcastle.  I was a Saturday girl, and my first wage packet was £3.20.  How I wish I’d held on to it.  It wouldn’t even buy a pint of beer now, but in 1976 it got you a month-long bus pass covering every zone in the county.  I know because I had one.  I left school and went to work in Windows full-time for £17.50 per week.  I did a short stint in the Civil Service, and then in 1979 some misguided soul in Northumbria Police gave me a job.  I’ve proven myself to be hard to get rid of;  because it’s only now, 37 years on, that we’re finally saying farewell.

I had my exit interview with a senior officer in mid August, someone whose rise through the police has been every bit as spectacular as my descent.  She asked me if I was upset about leaving, and said that she wasn’t looking forward to her own retirement.  She told me she got a buzz out of putting on the uniform every day, and that her heart would be heavy.  This particular officer is an extremely able leader, friendly, personable, and gifted, not just academically, but with common sense as well.  I’m only one of these things (friendly) so that’s probably the reason why she’s a Chief Superintendent and I’m a PC, although I won’t be by the time you read this.  Not just that though, the heavy heart reason must also come into it.  This officer is genuinely sad to be going, whereas I’m ecstatic.  It seems to me that policing is what she was born to do.  I know many young officers who are just like her – the future of Northumbria Police is in good hands.

A colleague who retired a couple of months before me said that during her own exit interview she was asked about sexism within Northumbria Police, so I thought I might be asked about it too.  I wasn’t, in fact, but I can guess the reason why it came up.  I’ve always admired Sue Sim, our former Chief Constable, and I suppose she must have her reasons for criticising the force so publicly now she’s left office.  My relationship with the organisation has been turbulent at times, but it’s given me my house, numerous close friends, my partner, camaraderie, and much more.  Everyone goes through times of trouble during their working lives, everyone.  Of course there have been occasions when I’ve been thoroughly fed up, sometimes over justifiable grievances, and frequently over situations I’ve brought about myself;  I once came perilously close to getting the sack.  Throughout it all though, I’ve always known where the door is, and until now, elected not to go through it.

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Whickham Police Office 1981
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Whickham Police Office 1981

When I started in the organisation, it was racist, homophobic and sexist, but so was the rest of the world, that’s what life was like in the seventies.  Programmes such as, “Love thy Neighbour” were mainstream evening viewing in the name of entertainment.  The police service as a whole, have been forefront in recognising wrongs and putting them right.  I am proud have been part of an organisation who have changed so radically, and whose staff are representative of the public they serve.  Of late, many rotten cores have found themselves on first name terms with the staff in the Job Centre.  As for me?  After 37 years it’s time to go, and obviously, for Northumbria Police this is a worrying thing.  Nevertheless, I feel confident, that after having weathered so many storms in the past, Northumbria Police will somehow find it within themselves to soldier on without me.  Pastures new await, but there are to be no departing swipes directed towards the employers who have given me so much.  The officers and staff of Northumbria Police are the finest in the world, and I wish them nothing but the best.  18