The chairman of my local federation branch is a man I’ve met once. We traded a few words but not much else. To be fair, I don’t really know him. In many ways I’m glad I don’t. Not because I don’t want to but because for most officers, the time you get cosy with the local federation leadership is when things have gone wrong and you’re in deep water. Something I’ve spent over 20 years service trying to avoid.
I joined this twitter malarkey and set off my blog nearly 3 years ago. It was never meant to be an embarrassment to my force or an outlet for rebellion. Just simply saying things how I saw them… right or wrong. Even so, at that time it was skating on thin ice and one wrong move could have been catastrophic.
With being anon it would have been very easy for people to dismiss me outright. I had no proof that I was a cop. People either took me as I was or thought I was a Walt. Yet one person in the throng of people who began to follow me offered me help and guidance. He traded some emails with me and then passed his mobile number to me. He knew I was a cop yet he had never met me. He trusted me. “Ring me any time at all” he said.
I wrote a blog about Nick Herbert. It was a bit ranty and a lot angry. It was a lesson for me in how not to blog when angry. Part of my journey of learning. It was very popular on the day and I panicked. Was I too harsh? Was it attracting so much attention because it was so shocking? I rang my friend. He took the time out to advise me and reassure me that overall it was a good piece and was ok.
In later times I was approached by Paul McKeever. I man I had a skip load of respect for. He was the same. “This is my office number. Call me if you ever need to. Tell my PA you’re thecustodysgt and I’ll know who it is”. When I was approached by BBC Radio 4 about my Tools Down blog I was a bit concerned. This was out of my league. I rang Paul and got voicemail. I left a message. I needed advice. Within no time at all I got a DM with a phone number from someone I didn’t know.. Paul’s mobile apparently. I’m a cop. I’ve spent 20 odd years being suspicious. I needed verification and my friend is where I turned. His reply “I don’t know why that person is contacting you but that is definitely Paul’s mobile number. Call him. He is one of the best.”
After several conversations with Paul I did go on the BBC PM news program on the day of the march in London.
After being ferried from BBC TV Centre by taxi to the start of the march I set out to find one person in a sea of thousands. A needle in a haystack. Fortunately, many forces were holding up banners to say which force they were. I looked, searched, clambered over and around people until I found the force I was looking for. I asked and was pointed toward a smart looking chap in a suit. He turned toward me and there was a look of instant recognition on his face. We had never met. He had never seen an image of me and yet he knew. As he took my hand and shook it warmly he knew without doubt who I was. We had a brief chat and then parted. It was a busy day for him.
The next time I saw him was February this year. He stood in the chancel at Southwark Cathedral, resplendent in the uniform he has been proud to wear for over 30 years and spoke passionately, eloquently and with humour about his friend. The wonderful man that was Paul McKeever.
Ever since those first contact messages this man has been alongside me. Support, encouragement and guidance. He has been of great value to me and even more so when I am totally disconnected from his force. He has a wicked sense of humour and a very kind heart. A man who will, I believe, put everything to one side if someone needs help.
Today was his last working day as a police officer. I wish him all the very best in retirement. He is, has been and will remain a great friend to me. It still amazes me how you can meet some truly fantastic people through social media.
The force I was searching for in London was Dorset. The man. Mr Clive Chamberlain. To those of us on twitter.. @MrCliveC
All the very best to you Clive. I know that thousands of cops on twitter will endorse these words. You’re a legend, a true gentleman and will always be a part of the police family. Enjoy retirement to the full.