Written by Nikki Ross
Policing was in my blood – why wouldn’t it be, it was all I had known since I was a young and naïve 17 year old. I stayed with Thames Valley Police for 35 years for the very simple reason that I loved it. I literally would have started again in a heartbeat and for all the cynicism around policing, many would say the same.
I knew I had to stay in the public service arena and so though that, if and when I retired, it would have to be to work for a charity or similar. The opportunity for the CEO at the Thames Valley Partnership came up and I jumped at it – Criminal Justice sector, helping others, looking after the vulnerable – what wasn’t to love! I started the day after I retired and found the work immediately rewarding. I was quickly able to transition into the CEO role and my mindset of operating at a different, but still fast moving pace, came easily at first.
At first I loved that I wasn’t working ridiculous hours, I wasn’t on call most of the time, I wasn’t working weekends and no one was ringing me at 3am to ask for authority to do something or get a decision. In fact, no one called me out of hours at all, and if I even took my laptop home for a weekend, no one emailed me. It was bliss. But then it wasn’t and after a couple of months I started to miss the buzz that is unique to policing. I was finding the charity rewarding but frustrating. Pace was slower, there was less urgency to the work and there was a lack of danger! I wanted nothing more than to revert to type and find some way to get that buzz back. And I did. The buzz I got from policing was about constantly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. It wasn’t about long hours and on call, it was about decision making, managing risks, pushing through innovations and making a difference. I could get all of that right where I was, I just had to reframe the offer in my own head.
There is so much work to do when running a charity and very little support. Fundraising, bid writing, networking, relationship building, contract management, leadership, management, communications and planning for the immediate and long-term future. Looking for diversification whilst delivering against the here and now. All exciting stuff which requires you to focus on the needs of the clients – those same vulnerable people – and ensure that you can provide a top service to them – not dissimilar to policing really!
I haven’t fallen out of love with policing, but I have fallen in love with charity work. The fact that charities so brilliantly fill all of the statutory gaps left by public sector cuts, on very little money, but on tremendous skills and good will is awesome and makes me proud to be a part of it every day.