Louisa Bellis has two careers that she loves – research scientist and Special. This results in 16-hour working days but her work on the road policing unit gives her an “indescribable buzz” she wouldn’t change for anything. For more on becoming a Special see HERE
My weekday normally starts when my alarm goes off at 6.20am. I get up and make some breakfast to eat whilst doing my morning surf of the Internet. I like to use this time to catch up on overnight worldly occurrences and any emails I may have been sent. Police officers work 24 hours a day, so you often wake up to an email sent to you at 2am! Once the caffeine has kicked in, I can get up and start to get ready for my main job.
I work as a cheminformatic scientist at an international research company. I got this position after I completed my PhD in anticancer drug design. I had always been interested in science, but equally had a passion for policing. I had to make a decision at 18 years old as to which path I should take and I chose university to study chemistry. After completing my degrees and working for a few years in my chosen field, I found myself with free time and wondered how best I could utilise it. I remembered seeing television adverts about being a Special Constable (“Could You?”) and after a quick Internet search; I found the application form for Cambridgeshire Constabulary. I am now in the very fortunate position that I get to have two careers that I love – something that not everyone can say.
A normal day consists of researching into the data that we store in the database, as well as answering email questions from external users. It can be a mentally taxing job sometimes, as you have to have great attention to detail and broad knowledge of chemical structures. Usually, my day ends at 6pm, but as I am working on a police Lates shift this evening, I’ve worked some extra time over the week so that I can finish earlier. I close down the computer and start off on the 30-mile journey to headquarters.
Once at HQ, I go to my locker to get kitted up and then go to get my airwave and pava spray. The RPU team to which I am assigned is already out on patrol as they started at 2pm and it’s now 6pm, so I use my radio to point to point the officer I’ve been crewed with to let them know that I am ready to be collected. Whilst I wait, I go through my emails and any post.
After a short while my crew partner arrives at HQ and we set off on patrol. I notify the control room that I am now under the call sign of the RPU vehicle and give them my radio number so they can send job details directly to me. Almost immediately a call comes in about a 3-vehicle road traffic collision (RTC) on the A14 and we call up on the radio to let them know we will attend. It’s rush hour so we know that it’s going to be tough to get there on a road without a hard shoulder. After weaving through traffic, and dodging vehicles that are trying to change lane in front of us as we’re driving down the centre of the lines of cars, we make our way to the crash site. At first glance, we can see that three cars are involved and there is an ambulance already in attendance. I get out of the vehicle first with the paperwork and seek out any witnesses, as the paramedics are dealing with the drivers. My crew partner secures the lane with cones, lights and signs and starts to organise recovery of the damaged vehicles. Once we get witness details, they are allowed to leave the scene and carry on their journey, and my attention turns to each of the drivers. I ask them for first accounts to get an idea of what happened so that we can find out whom, if anyone, is at fault for the RTC. We can take more detailed statements at a more convenient time, if necessary. At this point, a fire engine turns up and the fire officers make sure the vehicles are safe and won’t start any fires. A paramedic tells us that they are taking an injured driver to the hospital and that everyone else is fine, so I temporarily stop traffic to let the ambulance out. Once the ambulance is gone, my crew partner and I wait for the recovery vehicles to arrive and clear the scene; there is too much debris for us to move the vehicles ourselves. After the vehicles have been removed, we sweep the road, clear the cones, lights and signs and let the traffic run freely. All of this has taken about two hours.
After leaving the scene, I contact the control room and let them know that the vehicles have been recovered and that we are resuming our patrol.
As we drive back on the A14, we spot a vehicle on the other carriageway with its hazard lights on. It’s at the end of the slip road, where there’s no hard shoulder and is potentially dangerous for other road users, especially now it’s getting dark. We come off at the next slip road and get onto the other carriageway to see what’s going on. My crew partner stops the police car a good distance away from the stationary vehicle and puts the rear red lights on to warn other motorists. I get out, put my high visibility jacket on and hat to make me more noticeable, and go to speak to the occupants of the vehicle. It transpires that they had run out of petrol but thought they had enough time to get to a petrol station before it would run dry. As we couldn’t leave them in such a precarious position and after some consultation with my crew partner, we tell the driver that we will drive them to the nearest petrol station where they can get some fuel and then bring them back. This is quicker than waiting on their friend to come and meet them who was driving from some distance away. We do this, make sure their car is now mobile and drive behind them as they drive off the slip road.
It’s now about 9:30pm and we are getting hungry. We go to a local police station and sit down for something to eat and a quick drink. A couple of other RPU officers come and join us and we chat about the jobs we’ve been on that day. As we’re eating, a call comes in that there’s a domestic violence incident down the road from the police station. We hear a local unit call up to say that they’ll take it on, so we continue eating our dinner. A few minutes later, the local unit calls up for assistance as the suspect is actively resisting arrest and has become verbally and physically aggressive towards them. We quickly pack away the remains of our food, run to the car and drive to the help the local officers. As we approach the house, we notice the door is open so we go in to see what has been going on. Between the four of us we manage to use our communication skills to calm him down enough that he compliantly walks to the waiting police van. He was arrested to prevent breach of the peace.
By now, it’s 10:30pm so my crew partner and I decide to float around the city to see what’s happening and see if there are any noticeable traffic offences. We end up parking in a known speeding concern area and use the laser device to see if anyone is exceeding the posted speed limit. After we’ve stopped a couple of drivers each, it’s time to get back to HQ to write up our paperwork and hand our vehicle over to the night shift.
After handing in all of the paperwork, I put my kit back in my locker, put my coat on and head to my car. It’s now just after midnight and although working a 16-hour workday is tiring, working alongside the RPU team and attending incidents gives me an indescribable ‘buzz’ and feeling like I’m part of a team that I wouldn’t change for anything.
I get back home just before 1am. I’m booked on to do the Lates shift the next day, a Saturday, which starts at 2pm, so I get my uniform ready for that and go to bed.