The Met has some of the finest officers in the world and Chief Superintendent Roy Smith is certainly one of them. As part of our Back Our Bobbies campaign we have been speaking to police officers across the capital and highlighting to our communities the amazing work they do that frequently goes unnoticed. Today, in an interview with the London news section of the Havering Daily, Chief Superintendent Smith talks to us about the endless challenges in policing officers are currently facing, defunding the police and police use of force in our society.
Roy is a very down to earth and straight talking police officer that has dedicated his life to protecting and serving the London public and its communities. He is currently based at New Scotland Yard where his role involves leading the Met’s work on the challenges they face with trust and confidence within London’s black communities. He also reviews how to better equip officers and the police use of force issue that communities may question.
He is a dedicated police officer through and through and talks openly about policing. “Policing provides ordinary people like me with the opportunity to do extraordinary things like helping the public. Being a police officer gives us the privilege of being in people’s lives at the very worse times and being a glimmer of hope being able to provide stability and safety when no one else can or will.”
Despite being on the frontline everyday and risking their lives for us, officers face an unbelievable amount of criticism, most of which is unjustified and also face a great deal of hostility when doing their job.
“The biggest challenge at the moment is the isolated action of a tiny minority of police officers and the constant criticism of policing in the media and on social media. Sometimes it makes my colleagues feel like the whole world is against them and when officers are out doing their job, responding to 999 calls when people are pleading for help, they are being challenged, obstructed and being filmed. They are being criticised and blamed and it is making their job almost impossible to do, even when we are trying to help people who have called us there.
“I absolutely recognise that there are things we have to get better at and we have to listen to those concerns, but sometimes the message is lost that we overwhelmingly do a good job. Our officers run towards danger, they protect the most vulnerable, they investigate crime. We should be held to account when we do things wrong, but we also do many things right. Rarely does anyone want to see a police officer, we operate in the shadows of society dealing with individuals many others don’t want to deal with. We also get the chance of dealing with individuals who society has abandoned. We are the people that never say no. When someone calls us, we are there and respond, not many people can say that.”
Use of force is often something the police are criticised for. Social media is usually full of armchair warriors knocking the police on why it takes more than one officer to arrest a particular suspect, something Roy is able to easily explain.
“If someone has decided they don’t want to be arrested, then it becomes very difficult. Before people are quick to criticise us, let’s take a minute to understand some of the challenges. People see four or five officers and they are not aware of the difficulties they are dealing with. I also ask them this question, what would happen if we were not there?”
The call by certain groups to defund the police is one of which the majority of Londoners I am happy to say do not agree with or even begin to comprehend, or most certainly want.
“Defund the police is deliberately emotive language and the campaign is missing a really important point”, says the police chief. “If what people actually campaigned for was an equitable and effective investment in the whole spectrum of public services so that society could be best protected, then I would be in agreement. But you can’t police your way out of these problems. You need to invest in equality of opportunity in the early stages of childhood, address some of the socio -economic disparity and disadvantages particularly for young black men in London. Invest in facilities such as healthcare, education, mental health, to support communities. All those things need investment, and that should be in addition to a well resourced and funded police service. Throw the question back at the people asking for the police to be defunded and just remind them that when all those other services are being cut and absent, we are always there, we always come and we never give up. We are that constant in our society and perhaps the use of less emotive language about dividing society and more constructive language about uniting it.”
Roy actually hits the nail bang on the head, we all want an equal society and the better funding of our most vital resources to make our communities work. His views are not just police based but also society based, seeing the bigger picture after years of doing one of the most challenging roles in our society. His opinions are fair and non judgemental.
“I don’t look people who break the law as bad people.I’m not here to judge them. The focus has to be more on what unites us than what divides us. I have on more than once occasion literally held a person dying on the floor or in my arms and in that moment, you are not a police officer and a criminal but two human beings recognising the value of life. Cops can have a bad day at the office, but fundamentally we are doing something to try and help other people. Let’s ask each other, what are we doing to make society better? How are we contributing? What is it that we have done today to make someone’s life better? Most days police officers come to work and do something that makes someone’s life better or makes them feel safer. If we continue with this constant anti police narrative, then people will stop joining the police and society will lose some of its unsung heroes.”
Knocking police officers and the work they do really has become the favourite and predictable past time of many who would not last a day doing the work front line officers do each day. Yet they do it, day in and day out and as Roy openly tells us, are always there.
“It is soul destroying to be constantly battered, everyday we see police officers saving people’s lives because that is what we do.”
Chief Superintendent Smith has also been on the frontline for many years himself and has experienced his fair share of trauma including being one of the first responders on the London Bridge terror attack.
“That gave me the ability to see the absolute best of humanity under horrific circumstances. I saw bravery, heroism, and compassion. It clearly demonstrated that I work with absolute heroes. Yes policing means that you are exposed to high levels of trauma that others may not be. Officers often carry your trauma burden for you. Police officers go from incident after incident, day after day and soak up all of the trauma, inequality and injustice in society. They often lie awake at night deeply saddened and upset at what they have seen.”
Sadly certain individuals in our society will not accept these points and will still bash the police, completely unaware of the real job they do. But it is our duty to call out those causing harm to officers and assaulting them for doing their job.
“The level of violence against police is horrific, and has to be called out. We all have a duty to call this out and lets get this straight attacking police officers for doing their job is not acceptable.”
Roy is an officer that exhibits qualities of kindness, understanding and compassion but is also tough when needed. “My response to those who will criticise repeatedly is, you are criticising us but do you have a solution?”
Chief Superintendent Smith is like most officers not keen to be called a hero, but yet like all the other officers out there today, he will put his life on the line for us and run into danger when we run from it. He is a hero and they are heroes in a uniform.Most of us would not be able to do this extremely challenging job, so let us spare them a thought and actually show the police the respect they rightly deserve and help unite our community and not divide it. #policeofficersareheroes.