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CC Sara Thornton Blog: The future of policing is in good hands

Thirty three years ago I passed out of the Police College at Hendon. Last Friday I went back as a guest of Commissioner Cressida Dick to inspect the parade and to speak to the student officers.

The College has been knocked down and rebuilt since I was there but I was pleased to see that the familiar statue of Sir Robert Peel had been moved to stand guard over the new Peel House. Just like my graduation in 1986 proud parents were taking photographs of the new police officers by the great man who founded the Met 190 years ago.

Everyone who attended on Friday will look back on the day as memorable but very wet. In fact the rain was so hard that the military band could not play and we relied on piped music which is not quite the same! As the officers marched on to the square, I was struck by how many women made up the group in this centenary of the first woman constable in the Met. Marching is not much of a requirement in modern policing but I can see why the discipline and the team work needed make the hours of practice worthwhile.

The Commissioner and I took our place at the front of the parade and after we had saluted the colour party we were invited to inspect. By this time there were monsoon conditions testing all our resilience so while we inspected, congratulated and chatted we moved briskly along the lines. I was pleased to see many more black, Asian and ethnic minority officers than in my day but I was equally struck by the fact that I met an Italian, a Lithuanian and a Romanian on the parade. And interestingly one said while they would never consider policing as a career in their home country they were proud to join the British Police.

We then went into the vast modern space of the training school and under a giant poster of Sofia Stanley, the first female Met officer, we swore the police oath. Prizes were awarded and then the speeches. It’s a great privilege to address recruits, their families and friends. It was a favourite task in Thames Valley and I always tried to give officers a sense of the great purpose in being a police officer. The Queen’s Police Medal has the words ‘Guard My People’ inscribed on it – and that is our purpose. We are guarding the Sovereign’s people - what a great thing to do with your life. It is something to remember when facing tough and challenging times.

Before he was President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt was the Police Commissioner in New York and a great police reformer. He famously said that ‘it is not the critic that counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.’ In becoming a police officer we go in to the arena, of course there will be critics, but we know that we have a very worthy cause.

I then had the pleasure of meeting lots of new officers and their families. I left Hendon feeling huge respect for these new recruits who have chosen to earn their living guarding their fellow citizens, in the knowledge of risks and challenges implicit in their new vocation. I also left confident the future of policing is in good hands.