15 October 2018
The benefits of good post incident procedures (PIPs) can make all the difference between ‘career death’ or keeping the job officers love.
Two Staffordshire PCs outlined their own experiences for delegates at the annual Police Federation PIPs Seminar.
Response officers Tony Collier and Rob Goodwin were involved in a pursuit which ended in a three-car collision with victims suffering life-changing injuries.
With the support of the local Federation, sympathetic bosses and Occupational Health, they were guided through the investigation procedures after a malfunctioning ‘black box’ system [Spirit] showed their car speeding at 100 mph.
The drama began after the officers had pulled over a suspicious vehicle. PC Goodwin was speaking to the male driver and had attempted to whip the car keys out of the car’s ignition when the driver suddenly shot off leaving the officer clinging on for dear life.
The officers immediately chased after the offender, who had a warrant for immediate recall to prison but after several miles doing only moderate speeds, the errant driver crashed into two other cars, seriously injuring three other people.
PC Goodwin said: “Over a 15 year career it was probably the worst day of my policing career – and as it transpired, probably the very best.”
With the casualties cut out of the cars and the air ambulance gone from the scene, the officers and three other colleagues were ferried to Staffordshire Police HQ where the PIPs process was started.
PC Collier said: “Unlike Rob, I had not had had any previous PIPs awareness training so I felt like the pressure was ramping up all the time because I had no idea what to expect.”
But he felt grateful to Post Incident Manager (PIM) Pete Owen, ‘the most important man in the room’ because he said: “There was a very calm approach, no bullying or finger pointing – these are the people looking after you. I was quite glad there was no separation and although I was very worried, I could feel that wraparound support.”
PC Goodwin added: “The most important thing was that we were given time, there was no pressure put on us. We had great support from the Federation and Occupational Health. In fact, if I hadn’t had the support of Occupational Health, I don’t know if I would still be in the job.”
The investigation carried out by the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), was originally meant to last three months but ended up taking ten because a member of the public who was not even present at the scene of the accident, claimed officers were driving in an illegal manner.
Body Worn Video (BWV) was crucial in calibrating the actual speed of the officers’ car, vital because the on-board Spirit computer gave false readings. As a result of the investigation, Spirit was eventually removed from all Staffordshire vehicles. “Body Worn Cameras will save you”, said PC Goodwin.
But also key to both PCs was the support they received throughout, emerging afterwards with renewed vigour for the job. Said PC Collier: “The whole process ultimately turned five cynical officers into massive fans and supporters of Staffordshire Police and the way that they do their business.”
Their Federation rep Dave Stubbs said building relationships with the IOPC regionally was also important, including running training sessions which included the police watchdog and Professional Standards personnel. “It’s about breaking down some of the barriers, and also having the bosses sit with the troops so we can have those conversations about expectations.”
PIPs awareness sessions should also be more widely run across all forces. PC Collier said: “If I had been to one it would have eased my journey on that day.”
Tim Coolican, the officers’ lawyer, also acknowledged: “I only learned later on what the officers’ perspective was, that perhaps some of it was not going so well. The lesson we can all take away is just to make sure that you are explaining from the start everything that is expected from the process.”