|** Please note some names have been changed in this blog to protect identity ** |
Sophie from Middlesbrough was in the midst of a crisis that she felt was too much to bear. She had sought help from a number of different agencies, but she felt she didn’t have anywhere to turn during her hardest moments.
It was late at night, cold and pouring with rain and at the end of her tether, Sophie walked in tears to a local bridge where she climbed over the barriers and decided that after a brief call to a loved one, she would jump into the river.
What Sophie didn’t know was that help was on the way from my officers at Cleveland Police.
PC Ahmed (officer’s real name) arrived at the scene and started to talk to Sophie but she was adamant she would jump, and that he was wasting his time.
Except, of course, PC Ahmed wasn’t wasting his time. He kept talking to Sophie until she felt safe enough to step back over the barriers towards him. Sophie was taken to hospital where she was assessed and later discharged to leave hospital.
PC Ahmed in the meantime, went back about his duties having saved a young woman’s life.
Some hours later whilst PCs Ahmed and Smith were on patrol, they were called back to the bridge to find Sophie again on the wrong side of the barriers in an even more acute crisis than she was earlier. This time, Sophie jumped.
The officers were not going to give up on her; they lunged over the barrier and caught Sophie by her arm with the River Tees far below. Sophie was hauled to safety and taken back to hospital where she received the help she so desperately needed. The same life was saved twice that night.
This recent incident illustrates two issues. That whilst the work of our staff is extraordinary, we are often the service of both first and last resort, and whilst not necessarily the ones best suited to deal with the crisis, we attend in any case.
Secondly, whilst the focus is rightly on cutting crime, we do so much more behind the scenes, to make sure people are kept safe and we are there at times of crisis. This is rarely discussed in a reductive public debate on policing. That needs to change; our work needs to be seen through a much wider lens.
Finally, Sophie’s case isn’t rare. For a single 24-hour period this weekend, Cleveland Police dealt with 18 reports of missing people and 15 reports of concern for safety.
To give a sense of the resources involved, just one of those cases required the work of 29 police officers and staff over a long period of time. Not until after the call comes in do you get the true sense of what you’re dealing with.
When we are asked to account for the work that we do, or turn stories into statistics, the depth of the understanding, effort and response of just one case can be lost when having to put numbers into a box. That’s why I don’t believe you can put a performance measure on saving lives.
Each case is a huge undertaking and to help at the point of call, in May, we will again have mental health nurses working in our Control Room.
Innovation is the key to saving more lives and I’m proud of the work we do here at Cleveland to be at the forefront protecting vulnerable people. Sophie is with us today because of the work of our officers, and we’re thankful.
Whatever members of the public, or indeed our own officers/staff are going through, a Samaritan will face it with you: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.