Sergeant Samuel Girdlestone
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am the Operational Planning Sergeant for the Force Support Unit, Operational Policing Command. I have been a Police Officer for 19 years and a firearms officer for 14 years. In that time, I have worked from Stanway RPU when they use to dual role with traffic and ARV duties, and then to the FSU in 2010. On promotion I moved to Stansted Airport as a Firearms Patrol Sergeant and then back to FSU as a Firearms Tactical Advisor in 2016.
I have had an interesting career within firearms where I have been actively involved in numerous high-profile incidents. From the Olympic torch relay for the security operation for London 2012, I was also fortunate to command the arrival of the president of the United States, Barrack Obama, when he landed at Stansted in 2016. The biggest low point of my career was responding to the murder of Pc Ian Dibell QPM in Clacton. I knew Ian personally and this made my response the more difficult. My biggest achievement within work was being recognised for saving the life of a suicidal woman in the River Colne for which I was fortunate to receive a Chief Constables commendation and Heart FM Hero of the Year Award.
Outside of work, with the exception of being a proud husband and father, my biggest achievement was playing rugby for England and Wasps at under 21’s. I love rugby and paddle boarding, as well as scuba diving and spearfishing in the Isle of Wight when on leave.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
The Excitement and challenge. The Force Support Unit responds to some of the highest threat incidents in the county on a weekly basis and the majority of the time my role is to support the tactical and strategic commanders as a tactical advisor. Within our work we use the National Decision Model exhaustively and over time you become familiar with making split second decisions and forming appropriate rationale very quickly. No day is the same and the variety and complexity of some of the incidents is phenomenal. From dealing with covert terrorist operations, working with the Special Forces assaulting a ship off our coast to dispatching escaped wolves from Colchester Zoo, its been memorable.
Why is diversity and inclusion so important in and outside of the workplace?
In my opinion, the finest qualities and values that any of us have as police officers and staff is fairness, honesty and integrity. Having participated in the launch of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Strategy, I am well aware of the importance of this to Essex Police. The death of George Floyd, and other incidents, has influenced a global movement, somewhat influenced by the actions of Police Officers which I have found genuinely upsetting and disappointing. Building better relationships within our community is vital to improving and maintaining confidence in Policing. Our organisation needs to represent our community to improve that trust and break down those barriers and misconceptions.
For the last few years, my team and I have been delivering weapons awareness presentations to schools and youth groups, hoping to educate young people on the dangers of possessing weapons and imitation firearms, and the implications this could have for us as Police Officers responding to such incidents. Gaining their trust and understanding is so important to prevent some of the tragic incidents we have seen abroad.
Within our region, female firearms officers are hugely underrepresented, and we are trying to encourage more officers to join us. On 20th of January we are holding a bespoke recruitment event at FSU, giving female officers the opportunity to speak with other female firearms officers, to look at and try on some of the PPE that would need to be worn and to ask questions about what their role entails.
Were there any barriers to joining Essex Police?
As a married, white, heterosexual, Christian male I actually have 6 of the 9 protected characteristics under the equality act. I have never found any barriers to any of the applications or processes that I have applied for within Essex Police. The process has always been fair, and I have succeeded in specialising and promotion in my role through hard work and determination.
How has Essex Police as an organisation supported you in your career?
I have been fortunate in my career to have been well supported throughout. When I joined OPC I worked alongside a team of experienced officers and have had numerous mentors along the way, particularly when I qualified as a tactical advisor. Upon promotion I soon realised the significant number of traumatic incidents and stress that our teams were exposed to. Now as the deputy TRiM lead for OPC (Traumatic Risk Management), I know what support is available. Our Occupational Health Department and well-being hub, supported by the Police Firearms Officer Association charity, have provided a superb support network to our teams when they need it the most. The TRiM network is a dedicated team of compassionate and caring people that are always available to speak to. If you need some structured support or some friendly advice there a plenty of people available to talk to.
Tell us something interesting about your role?
The Force Support Unit is one of the longest running team within Essex Police, having been established on 26th of March 1973. Every year we remember those members that have passed away, notably Bill Bishop, Darren Pike, Mark Hylands, Mark Estall, Jim Hollick and Keith Bishop. To be a member of this team and be a part of their history and legacy makes me very proud.
What advice would you give to anyone identifying as BAME thinking about joining Essex Police?
I have worked with a variety of officers from various backgrounds, sexualities and ethnicities. Within our teams, it really doesn’t matter what background you are from but who you are and what your team ethic is. If you are motivated and have a firm belief in our morals and values, you will be a great asset to our organisation. We often train for the worst day in the world. If I can rely on you to have my back when all hope is lost, that is all that matters.