It was back in 1978 so details are sketchy. To the best of my knowledge there was no specific recruitment drive on at the time, it was simply a notion that I got. I had to go to the local station to be measured and fill out a few forms. There was an interview with the local Superintendent and an entrance exam. Twelve months later I was heading in the gates of Templemore.
The day I heard that I had been accepted I was working on a roof and I nearly fell off the thing. A letter arrived at home for me and my mother drove to the site to give me the news.
I am currently Sergeant in charge of Community Policing, I was involved in community relations for eight years on the north side of Cork City until I got promoted in 2000. Then in 2006 I was offered the chance to return to Community Policing and jumped at the chance.
Describe a typical day?
There is no typical day really. There are twenty six members involved in community policing throughout the Cork City Division. Each member is involved in different initiatives, dealing with a variety of problems and personalities and it's my job to deliver a cohesive strategy across the city.
The challenge is to engage with the community at all levels and to promote an inter-agency approach to solving the problems and difficulties that arise. We do this through:-
Meeting with statutory and voluntary agencies on a regular basis
Dealing with neighbourhood watch groups, sporting organisations and community and resident associations
Implementing the schools programme
Meeting the business community, the homeless and other ethnic minority groups
One of the biggest challenges we face now is dealing with the vast number of immigrants that are arriving on our shores. The relatively new phenomenon of immigration means we are now providing protection and redress against racist incidents and building bridges between ourselves and the new communities while at the same time trying to overcome the language barrier. This task is not made any easier due to the fact that many of these people will have had very negative experiences of dealing with authority in their countries of origin with the result that they can often be slow to engage with us.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
My main role is the supervision of those employed in community policing and the provision of guidance in the implementation of the policing plan. There are certain tasks and initiatives that must be performed and it is my job to ensure that they happen and that they are recorded.
It is part of my job also to compile returns and reports on what happens within the community policing section and to encourage new initiatives and ideas. I suppose I provide the link between the lads on the ground and Management. I also represent Management on many committees throughout the city.
What are the main challenges?
The whole concept of community policing is challenging. Up until fairly recently there wasn't much of a structure to it and it tended to be as good or as bad as the people involved in it. It was working well in some places, not working so well in others and non-existent in some other areas. For the first time ever a 'National Model of Community Policing' is being developed and I am a member of an associated working group. Community policing has been identified as the way policing should be directed for the future and this model is being created to be used as a template in towns and cities around the country. This has been a very challenging and demanding project but the end result will be well worth the effort and it should ensure a positive, cohesive and modern approach to policing the communities.
I suppose the variety is one of the main things - no two days are the same. I also have the freedom to develop an idea into an initiative, introduce it into the community and watch it work. There is huge satisfaction in watching my thoughts and proposals develop and the ideas can be as broad as my imagination.
I also get the chance to meet a wide variety of people from all walks of life, and in many cases I get an opportunity to improve the quality of their life. It might be something as simple as providing a bit of advice, or it could be something as serious as helping them deal with a tragedy such as a suicide.
Recently I spoke to a family member, and it never ceases to amaze me how my actions on those occasions can be recalled in minute detail by the bereaved. I was in a GAA club one time when an elderly man approached me and told me he was the grandfather of a young lad who had taken his own life a couple of years earlier. He told me that I would never know how much I had helped the parents of that boy and he shook my hand, thanked me and walked away. How cool is that?
What's not so cool?
I suppose one of the main pains would have to be the paperwork. The returns, the records, the accounting - no matter how hard you try you can't escape it. There are volumes of reports to be written too, but I'm fortunate in that regard because I actually like writing where I can express myself. Forms don't do it for me but ask me to write a report on anything and I'm away. I went to UCC a few years ago as a mature student and studied journalism and I often dabble in feature writing for some fun. Other than that, there is nothing really uncool about this job. I can retire next year if I want to but I like what I'm doing so much that I can't see that happening unless the Sunday Times wants to hire me.
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
This is probably something you should be asking somebody else but everyone seems to think that this is what I do best. As I said, I'm a people person and I suppose the single biggest thing I bring to this job is my personality.
I would be very outgoing, strong on communicating and I can get on with pretty much anybody. I encourage those working with me to give their best and I rarely lose my cool. I would also be a very common sense, practical type of person and I draw on that a lot.