Colchester: Meet the officers responding to your emergency calls
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On an average day, Essex Police receives around 120 calls or reports from members of the public relating to incidents across the Colchester district.
Of these, around 30 will require an emergency response. This figure may rise at the weekend or on a bank holiday.
Officers from Colchester Local Policing Team (LPT) will deal with the vast majority of them – they will often be the first police officers you are likely to see at an incident.
And they will often investigate it too.
In a typical day, they will be called out to domestic incidents – ranging from loud arguments between partners to serious assaults – reports of drug-dealing or people under the influence of drugs or drink, road collisions, reports from people concerned for someone else’s welfare, mental health incidents, search for missing people, reports of weapons seen, fights, shoplifting and sudden deaths – where someone has died unexpectedly but, often, not in suspicious circumstances.
Reports of hate-related incidents and community issues will be investigated by community policing team officers, often working with Colchester Council and other partner agencies to resolve them.
The team will also get requests from other forces to check addresses associated with missing people, to arrest a suspect or to check on someone’s welfare after a worried relative in another county has called their local force.
During just one day shift this week, local policing officers attended a road traffic collision, several reports of domestic violence and sexual assaults, a suspected drink driver, a couple of disturbances, a report of an injured deer on a road and an attempted suicide – thankfully, officers were able to break down a locked door and get the man to hospital to receive the support he needed.
They also dealt with several people who had been arrested, including a man arrested on suspicion of assaulting his partner and a child, and a woman on suspicion of assaulting her partner.
As you can see, there’s a huge variety in the calls we receive and all our local policing officers agree no two days are the same.
Acting Sergeant Dom Potts has been with the team for six years and likes the challenge that being on a local policing team provides.
“I enjoy getting out and talking with the public and helping people – people in mental health crisis, people involved in road traffic collisions, suffering domestic abuse or they’ve been burgled. “I like to help people and to get them justice where I can. I like to get people who are prolific offenders and who cause people misery into custody and get them charged and off the streets.”
On the whole, the summer is busier than winter in the Colchester district, outside the festive period.
It’s lighter and warmer in the evenings and there are more visitors. Weekends are typically busier with a healthy night-time economy on a Friday and Saturday, which is creeping forward to Thursday nights and, if there’s a bank holiday, Sunday nights are busy, too.
“I enjoy getting out into Colchester town during the night shift, talking to people, dealing with people who are drunk isn’t always bad. “Being yourself is the best thing you can be because then you are genuine with your conversations. Most of the time you don’t need to be authoritative, you can manage situations by having a chat and a laugh, even if you do need to use your police powers from time to time. “Ninety-nine per cent want to go out and have a good time, it’s just the one per cent who cause problems.” Sergeant Matt Scrivener
Matt says members of the team come from different backgrounds, with different skills and knowledge, but all share a common goal – to help keep our communities safe.
“I wanted a career that wasn’t office-based, with lots of different opportunities and getting involved in lots of different things. “Every day here is different. You don’t know what you are going to come into when you arrive for your shift or what’s going to happen during it. “I want to do the right thing for people who call the police, irrespective of their background, where they’ve come from or what they’ve done in the past. “I couldn’t just neglect something and think ‘I don’t have time for that’. I have to do something.”
After ten years as a retail manager, PC Paul Harrison joined us as a police community support officer in 2010 and then became a police officer in 2013, working in Grays, Brentwood and Ongar. He has been with Colchester LPT for six months
Recently, Paul and fellow officers attended a Colchester address following a report of concern for safety. Weapons were said to be present and the woman was alleged to be hurting herself so two crews attended because they did not know until they arrived exactly what situation they would be facing.
“She didn’t answer the door and looking through the glass, we could see a body on the sofa. We called for an ambulance and then forced entry. Section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act allows us to do this to protect life and prevent serious injury. “When we got in, the woman was conscious and breathing but wasn’t responding despite different officers talking to her. Using our first aid training, we also knew to try pressure points but she wasn’t even blinking. “Suddenly, she jumped up and shouted. It was a bit of a shock but also a relief. An ambulance took her to hospital to get the help she needed. We had to sit with her for a while in A&E before she could be seen by staff there and she thanked us for what we did for her.”
Paul enjoys proactive policing, using intelligence – often provided by the public – to catch criminals, to keep people safe on the roads and to search for and recover stolen vehicles.
“When I'm not attending incidents, I like to spend my time on mobile patrol in my local area, using the Police National Computer and intelligence systems to stop vehicles, check the occupants and deal with any traffic offences and people who are wanted by us in relation to ongoing investigations, or simply to give a few words of advice to drivers.”
PC Nicole Canwell is a former prison officer. She fancied a change and joined us in March 2020. She has been with Colchester Local Policing Team for six months and ‘I love it’.
“My strength lies with talking to people and most jobs involve talking to people, de-escalating situations and talking people round. “It’s also very satisfying to use my knowledge to assist victims in finding support to help them. “A victim of domestic violence may not know there is support out there from Next Chapter by Compass and victims of sexual assault may not know about the Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse or non-molestation orders. So I’ll tell them. “You never know what you are going to go to and it’s great being out and about and not being stuck indoors. It’s good to be out on patrol, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, and to help keep people safe on the roads. “If I see someone driving poorly, I’ll pull them over, explain why and what the result could be and ask them to be a bit more mindful and to concentrate. Most of the time, I get quite a good response. That person may have had a really terrible day at work and I might change their day by giving them the chance to put it right and not giving them a ticket.”
Recently, Nicole attended after our Force Control Room received a panicky call from a Chinese student.
“When I arrived, I found a young woman who had fallen and hit her head on the table. She’d lost a lot of blood. “Fortunately, I know a couple of basic phrases and said ‘Ni hao’ which put them at ease. I was then able to calm things down and explain what was happening before she got into an ambulance. I liaised with them at the hospital because of the language barrier and was able to ensure her friends got a taxi safely back home.”
Although LPT officers often respond to incidents which are a crisis for the people involved, there are some lighter moments.
Dom was deployed to reports of an injured swan in Fordham where cars were swerving to avoid it in the road.
“It had damaged its wing but was still quite active. We contacted Wildlives Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Thorrington for advice. I wrapped my hi-visibility jacket round the bird but they are quite strong and I ended up in a bramble bush at one stage, much to the amusement of my colleague. “We asked another officer to bring out a large pet carrier from Colchester Police Station, got the swan inside and put it on the back seat of our car. “On the way to Wildlives, we had to stop to deal with a serious road collision in Cowdray Avenue. We sat the driver on our back seat to breathalyse him and get some details. “He just looked at us and asked ‘What on earth is a swan doing here?!’ He blew zero so it was only a few short minutes before we were able to continue our journey and get the swan safely to Wildlives.”
Nicole has also had to take a swan to the vets – it had flown into a set of traffic lights and knocked itself out – and has also found herself in a field near the A12 holding on to two stray horses while a colleague and the owner put a halter on a third.
“I’m only 5ft 2ins and they must have been over 6ft! I’ve never been near a horse in my life and I’m holding two horses. The owner was very grateful to us, though.”
Do you have information for us?
If you see something which you feel needs police attention, or you have information about a crime or criminal activity, you can submit an online report or, between 7am and 11pm, you can use Live Chat. You can also call 101.