A Day in the Life of a Professional Policing Student: Student by Day, Police Officer by Night

Second year BSc Professional Policing student Eve tells us about a day in her life on the course and her experience of being a GMP Special

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself. Why did you enrol in the BSc (Hons) professional policing? 

I joined the degree because I’ve wanted to join the police for a number of years. I want to do a job where each day is different, but also provides you with reward and high levels of satisfaction by helping members of the public. Being a police officer is often stereotypically seen as a man’s job, and I wanted to be able to push gender barriers. I think the pre-join degree was the best option for me personally, because it allows me to have flexibility and provides me with the skills and confidence I need for joining the Police as a PC.  

  •  Can you explain what made you choose Salford?  

I chose Salford mainly because I wanted to move into a city that wasn’t too far away from home and meant I could travel with ease whenever I wanted. With the city centre also not being far away, it means there’s lots of things to do from going out at night, to going shopping, or watching the football. I also had prior intentions that once I’d finished uni, I would stay in Manchester and apply to join GMP. The accommodation on campus also made the decision to move away from home that bit easier, because I didn’t have to travel far to lectures and because it had been ranked as one of the best university accommodations in the country.  

  • Why did you choose this specific study route as opposed to, for example, an apprenticeship? 

I specifically chose the pre-join degree route over the apprenticeship because I wanted to gain some life experience first before joining as a PC. As an apprentice there is a lot of pressure put on you and you would be expected to complete a full-time degree, whilst also having to do a full-time job. Doing the pre-join degree has meant that I have been able to have the student experience, move away from home and still have some flexibility in my time to do what I want while I still can, but to also become a Special and build upon core policing skills in my own time.  

  • What is a typical day as a Professional Policing student like for you? 

A typical day for us on the degree would be a 9am start, where we have a lecture and seminar timetabled until around 1pm. During that time, we may be taught about the criminal justice process, safeguarding, mental health or about terrorism and policing. We might be asked to conduct group projects and research around a particular subject area and then present back to the rest of the group, take part in simulations dealing with a complex incident from start to finish, or hear from guest speakers from external agencies. We will then get a couple of hours break to get some lunch, and to catch up with some assignments or prepare for our next seminar/workshop at 3pm, which runs till around 5pm. Around once or twice a semester we will then use the simulation facilities we have on campus to run through a variety of different policing scenarios, whether its domestic incidents, missing from home, or dealing with a theft or an assault to help increase our confidence levels and our operational policing skills.   

  • You are currently volunteering with GMP as a special – can you tell us a bit more about your volunteer position?

As a Special Constable with GMP I spend most of my time working on response, typically doing 1- 2 shifts a week, in addition to working on several operations and events across my division. As a Special we have the same powers as our regular colleagues and attend to the same jobs.  

A typical shift for me would be going in early to get kitted up and to make sure all my kit is ready for the shift ahead, and completing some admin. I will then go and speak to the duty sergeant, before collecting the rest of my kit and heading up to briefing, where we will find out who we are crewed with and what our taskings are. Once briefing has finished, we will then collect all our kit and load up the cars ready for any jobs we may be asked to attend. We can be tasked to attend grade 1 calls that require an immediate response, which are typically your burglaries in progress, vehicle thefts, domestics, fights, and assaults, or be tasked to attend to grade 2 calls that can be responded to in slow time. When not tasked with anything by the sergeants or by comms, we typically go out to be proactive in the community, carrying out stop searches and driver/vehicle checks, whilst also providing a visible presence.  

I chose to join the Specials with GMP to gain a true experience of what it’s like to work as a response officer, whilst also studying my full-time degree. I already knew about the Special Constabulary and the work they do and decided I would join them after starting at uni. I wanted the opportunity to work in a large force that’s busy and demanding and is continuing to develop itself and hopefully join once finishing uni.  

  • Do you feel this experience has helped you in developing your professional skills further? 

Since becoming a Special my professional skills and confidence have grown massively. I have been able to deal with a wide range of complex incidents that are constantly changing, as no job is ever the same. You have to learn to work under intense amounts pressure, where there can be lots of people shouting and fighting. Decisions need to be made quickly to deal with members of the public, to being able to collect evidence as part of an investigation and to complete reports in a timely manner. However, you also need to be able to show sympathy and empathy to those who have received bad news or may be going through a tough time and may need some additional support.  

  • How do you manage to balance your student life with your volunteer life?  

I find it quite easy to balance my time as a student and as a Special. I’m currently in uni around 2 days a week, which gives me a lot of flexibility to work a variety of different shift patterns on response, as well as other events or operations. When I’m not on response, I’m with my friends going out during the week or the weekends, and catching up with assignment work.  

  • Can you tell us a bit more about the academic support which has been available to you so far during your studies?  

There’s lots of academic support available at the uni through the help of module and personal tutors. If there’s anything you’re struggling with you can send them an email or see them face to face and they are able to help you and point you in the right direction, or find you someone else who may be better suited to provide support. It doesn’t have to be academic related; they can also help you if there’s something you’re struggling with personally. There’s also lots of resources online where you can find help with academic support, whether it is how to reference, structuring how to write an assignment, or revising and planning for exams. Throughout my studies I have felt supported and feel I can ask my tutors for support if and when I need it.  

  • What is the biggest challenge you've faced during your studies so far and how have you overcome it?

My biggest challenge so far during my studies was not at uni, but during the preparation for the Special Constabulary interview. There was lots of information to remember and having not been in a formal interview before, I did not know what to expect. Luckily one of my tutors was able to go over what to expect on the day and during the interview and provide me with some example questions that may be asked, so I could prepare some answers to give them. If it hadn’t had been for that support, then I don’t think I would have passed the interview process.  

  • We love to know what our current students do for their physical and mental wellbeing outside of their studies – what kinds of hobbies do you engage with outside of volunteering? 

Outside of my studies I train mixed martial arts twice a week, go to the gym and play football when I can for local teams, which not only breaks up my studies and work balance, but also helps to keep me physically fit for when I’m out working as a Special. It can often be physically demanding having to wear uniform, stab and tac vests and belt, all whilst chasing after and detaining suspects. With moving away from home to come to uni, when I can, I also like to go home to spend time with my family and friends, and to have a break from doing uni work.  

  • What has been your biggest highlight so far? 

A highlight on the course so far has been when we took part in ‘Invent to Protect’, run by the US Embassy. During this we had to design a programme that would counter far-right extremism, misogyny, misinformation, radicalisation, and racially or ethnically motivated violence across the UK. The team created an induction programme for first year students tackling racial extremism, specifically its impact among women at uni. We were then lucky enough to get through to the finals, where we were invited to the US Embassy in Paris for 3 days to present our programme in front of officials. Despite coming second, it was an experience that I won't forget.

So far as a Special I’ve had lots of memorable moments, including several successful foot chases and arrests of suspects, where we have then been able to provide victims of crime with reassurance and in addition to this, been able to locate a number of high-risk missing people.   

  • Have you started to think of plans post-graduation? Do you have any thoughts about what you might want to achieve in five years' time? How about after 10 years? 

After graduation, my current plan is to join GMP full time as a PC and to initially work on response. After around 5 years, my plans would then be to look at more Spec Op jobs such as firearms or becoming a dog handler, and seeing what other roles this may lead to. After around 10 years I’d potentially want to move up the ranks and become a sergeant and take on more responsibility. 

  • Finally, if you had three tips to give to other women thinking about joining the Professional Policing degree, what would you say? 

If I had to give three tips to anyone wanting to join the degree, I would say to make sure you organise everything from uni work and getting your assignments in on time to your social life. Get involved in as much as you can, particularly during any simulation exercises. And finally, try to enjoy and make the most out of your time at uni because it will go quicker than you expect.  

Want to find out more about the programme Eve is studying?