GREATER Manchester Police is giving some of its partners the chance to spend a day in the life of a sergeant. TOM MOLLOY went along to experience it for himself.

PHONES ringing off the hook, incidents constantly being reported and dwindling numbers of staff to deal with them. These are real pressures faced by police sergeants on a daily basis. 

In the past seven years, policing numbers in Greater Manchester have fallen by around a third. There are currently just over 5,200 people working in the force, compared to more than 8,000 in 2012.

However, the pressures caused by issues such as reduced staffing has led to a need for understanding between the police and partners such as Royal Bolton Hospital.

One initiative set up to try and improve these relationships is the ‘day in the life of a police sergeant’.

Employees and management from the hospital and Bolton NHS Foundation Trust were among those invited to the day, which was run by PC Darren Bunn.

It is the fourth exercise to be run by PC Bunn since the first one in February, this year.

PC Bunn, who joined the force in 2003, was on response until joining the partnership team two years ago.

He said: “I think days like this are just showing the partners our world so they understand better the demands of our world.

"It’s about letting our partners know this isn’t Life On Mars and we can’t go round putting every door through, or we can’t force someone to go to hospital, because I think the public and our partners’ perception is that we can.”

I was lucky enough to be invited along on the day to experience the initiative first-hand. Split into two teams, myself and others in attendance were given a logbook filled with information about incidents that had been reported.

The crimes ranged from missing children, to rapes, to noise complaints from a neighbour following a party.

We were also given a list of the officers available to the sergeant, with information about any specialisms such as being trained to use a Taser, licensed to drive a police carrier van or had received special sexual offences training.

Only eight officers were available for the shift to cover a whole division, an area the size of Bolton.

All sergeants for the day but with much less experience, we were were still getting our heads around that when PC Bunn brought over the handover from the night shift, with immediate action required to relieve the night staff on three different jobs.

After allocating the required two officers to each job, it left just two for all the other jobs in the log book. The enormity of the task faced by a sergeant on a daily basis and the tough decisions they constantly have to make had firmly settled in by this point.

Adding fuel to the fire were a number of ever-changing live incidents.

Some were grade one – the most serious crimes which require serious action - such as a man escaped from a mental hospital threatening to kill himself.

Although jobs such as the noise complaint from the party had already been treated as low priority, even tougher calls now had to be made on which incidents could be immediately dealt with.

Plans had to constantly change throughout the day, leading to some very stressful discussions and decisions. It was an extremely eye-opening experience.

Although it seemed like a completely impossible task, PC Bunn said it just comes with the territory.

He added: “That is a normal day, I’ve not over embellished at all.

“You can come in for a day as a sergeant with a plan. As soon as that first radio call comes through, that’s straight out the door. Then you have to balance that with being a father figure to your staff like all good bosses are.”

The final task of the day was an axe attack in a huge park, which left a victim bleeding out and an axe-wielding criminal on the loose. All of the previously allocated officers were available again and a decision had to be made on what to do. 

Due to the size of the park, finding the victim would not be an easy task and discussions were had on what methods could be used — whether helicopters, dogs or drones were available.

After two minutes of dithering, PC Bunn informed us that the victim would now likely be dead, with action still yet to be taken. It gave a real insight into the snap, life-changing decisions that have to be made on a daily basis. 

Detective Inspector Stephanie Parker, of GMP Bolton said: “Darren’s really passionate about this and we’ve had really good feedback from them in the past. Darren may not say this but he’s had a massive impact on our demand at the hospital and he’s doing a really good job."

One of those in attendance was Gemma Elcoat, a Sister in Children’s A&E, who added: “It’s been a really good day and very beneficial for the A&E department.

"We’ve learnt how sergeants and the police work and what sort of jobs they have to attend to. There’s been a few issues in the past, especially when there’s missing children that abscond from the department.

"It’s about having that support when you report that from the police, social services and this day has really helped us find out what they do and how they can help us.”