6 May 2021
National Chair, John Apter explains how it’s the small things that can often make the most difference.
In the role of National Chair, I get asked all sorts of questions: from what the Home Secretary is ‘really’ like, to whether I get nervous doing interviews on TV (yes, I do)! Sometimes these questions are simple to answer. Sometimes they’re a lot more complex.
However, my favourite question is when I’m asked what is the best part of my role - because this answer has always been an easy one. It’s meeting and speaking with our colleagues.
I spend a lot of time speaking with officers who are facing horrendous situations. These range from officers who have been severely injured to those going through a Post Incident Procedure, and in some other cases colleagues who are just going through a tough time in their own lives.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t always easy. Knowing there are many colleagues who are suffering in all kinds of ways is never a good feeling. However, it’s a privilege to be able to call these members and add to the fantastic support they will be receiving from their local Branch and Fed Reps.
Because of the demands of the role, I can’t just randomly call people. I am normally contacted by a local Federation Rep who tells me of something going on with one of our colleagues and they will ask me to reach out to them directly.
What has really surprised me, in a good way, is how a simple phone call can mean so much. I’m always overwhelmed by how humble and grateful our members are for no more than a phone call. Just taking a moment to listen, and to offer support can mean so much. It also helps to show they’re not on their own, and no matter what they’re going through, we are there for them at both a local and national level.
I regularly hear from members who give positive feedback about the support they have received from their local Federation Reps. This is very often unseen but it goes on every single day. If I can add to this support in a small way, then that’s what I’ll do.
I don’t ever want to be a detached, faceless, National Chair. When I was elected, I made a promise to members that I would be the most visible I could be. Whilst the pandemic may have limited some of these opportunities, by getting out on patrol with colleagues or talking directly to members who are going through tough times enables me to share their experiences directly with people like the Home Secretary or the media – and this is an extremely powerful message.
I want to say this to our members, we know that policing is tough, it’s dangerous and no matter how experienced you may be as a police officer you are human beings who occasionally need support. Whatever that level of support may be, it is available. Maybe just a phone call, a listening ear, or more specialist support. You are not alone.
For those supervisors and managers, never underestimate how much of a difference a simple phone call or check-in with a colleague can make. You don’t have to do a big thing to make a big difference!