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Joseph Tierney

I joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary in 1987, having first studied Civil Engineering at the Glasgow College of Technology. The fact I became a police officer rather than an engineer is testament to my inability to make good career choices at an early age.

I passed police law exams and promotion boards to reach the rank of Inspector. I retired from the Gloucestershire Constabulary in 2017 having served 30 years. I lived and worked in Beijing for a brief time during my period of service. On returning to the UK, and resuming my police career, I studied English Literature with the Open University and obtained a BA (Hons) in 2014, before going on to obtain a MA in English in 2016.

My time as a police officer afforded me an excellent opportunity to observe societal changes as well as the behaviour of individuals and groups as they engaged in activities or criminality that was often as harmful to them as it was to their victims.

The introduction of computers and the vast swathes of new legislation and expansion of police powers that were introduced with the arrival of Tony Blair's government and has continued since, changed the face of British policing. When I joined in 1987 we wore the traditional police officer's uniform of shirt, tie, dark blue serge uniform jacket with brass buttons, pressed serge trousers, a whistle on a chain, a small wooden truncheon, a custodian helmet - that fell off at a moments notice and we wrote everything down in a pocket notebook. We operated, predominantly, in the public space, we had few powers to delve deeper into peoples lives than for those offences that took place in public. By the time I retired we were wearing combat trousers, combat shirts, no tie, body armour, CS Spray, Taser and an extendable baton. Officers carry sophisticated IT equipment that allows them to operate as their own police station, with direct access to local and national databases, as well as an electronic notebook for the recording of evidence. Police powers are dramatically more intrusive and far reaching than before and our role has extended into areas of social work and mental health that now account for the majority of police time.

My last role as gave me responsibility for the authorisation and deployment of our Armed Response Vehicles to any incident that I deemed met the criteria for deployment and the tactics to be employed when on scene. This was a heavy burden to carry as one balanced the need to protect the public and attending police officers as well guarding the safety of the 'offender' and the right to life of everyone involved or likely to be affected by the incident. I was trained to prepare for a marauding terrorist attack, as exemplified by the Mumbai attack, as well as dealing with an active shooter, such as Derek Bird. This all seemed very unlikely in 1987.

My interests now are literature, psychology, philosophy and the social sciences in general. I want to understand what makes us tick. I fear the answer may be more mathematical than poetical. Human by the numbers.

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  • Glenrothes, Scotland
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