Essex: Proudly serving our county and country for 28 years
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After proudly serving his country for 14 years with the British Army, PC Jim Beaird decided it was time to move on and now he serves his county proudly too.
Jim joined the Army straight from school at 16 and his work took him to countries around the world before he settled down with his family and joined Essex Police in 2007.
Saturday 26 June 2021 is Armed Forces Day and Jim says: “I am proud still to be protecting my country after 28 years."
“I support Armed Forces Day for the work the military do, not only in this country but around the world. I am proud to be a part of it. Everyone seems to celebrate the Army when there is a war on but soldiers do a very valuable job the rest of the time, too,” says Jim.
With a background in explosives detection – first in the Royal Engineers and then with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps – Jim has put his Army experience to good use with us.
He is now a trainer with our Dog Section and his black Labrador springer spaniel cross Theo is an explosive detection dog.
“Because of the skills I’ve learned and my operational experience around the world, I have brought different ideas and perspectives to police dog training,” says Jim.
He won a force Innovation of the Year award three years ago for his work to train our explosive detection dogs to react to laser-targeting. This has been shared with other forces and is now in the process of being adopted as a national policing tactic.
Laser-targeting sees the dog handler shine a laser on, for example, a vehicle they suspect contains explosives so their dog knows where to search. The dog’s reaction indicates to firearms teams whether their path is clear or whether they need to take action.
Jim is now developing training for our tactical firearms support dogs so they can be deployed into buildings alongside our firearms officers without their handler, which is another tactic used by the military.
Jim had wanted to join the Army since he was a boy – even though both grandfathers had served in the Navy during World War II – because ‘I wanted to jump out of planes’.
He joined the Royal Engineers – and did get to jump out of aeroplanes – before jumping at the opportunity to join the Army Dog Unit before transferring to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and becoming a dog trainer.
“I’ve always loved dogs and was brought up with as my father had gun dogs.”
But after serving in various countries around the world, Jim felt it was time to move on.
“Having been in the Army since leaving school, I wanted to join a uniformed and disciplined organisation. I come from Essex and the force has a dog section so I applied to join.
“I felt very supported when I joined because the trainers recognised I was ex-military and brought a certain set of skills and attitude to discipline. They also used me to guide younger student officers in my class.
“To begin with, it was hard just getting my head round civilian life because the Army is a very regimented and niche world. I just ploughed on and adapted but having a semi-regimented format to my new job certainly helped me. And, of course, being paid if you have to work overtime is a bonus!
“Although I knew I couldn’t do it immediately, becoming an instructor with the Essex Police Dog Section was my end goal. After my two years of probationary training, I joined the firearms team at Stansted Airport for almost three years.
“Then in 2011 a job as a dog handler came up and I started working with general-purpose and drugs search dogs. Four years later, an instructor’s job came up and here I am now!”
A few years ago, Jim developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of some of his Army experiences. At first, he bottled things up because he couldn’t believe that it would occur so long after leaving the Army.
“I knew help was out there but initially I bottled it up. However, the support I got from my sergeant and from our Occupational Health department when I eventually spoke up was fantastic.
“They referred me for therapy and counselling and gave me time off work to do it. You don’t recover from PTSD but you manage it and find ways to rationalise it, which is what therapy taught me to do.
“I am proud I have come out the other side and am grateful for the support I received from the force which helped me to do so.”
If Jim’s story has inspired you and you share our values and want to protect and serve our communities, why not join us?