Part of life is doing what you love. It’s these things that make you who you are. Most people aren’t fortunate enough to not have to work, so doing something that you love in order to pay the bills, is a privilege.
It takes time to find the right road, overcoming detours, wrong turns and dead ends. Then, if you are lucky, you end up on the most fantastic career road trip. Imagine then, for one moment, when someone comes along and puts a bloody great brick wall right across that road. There’s no warning and no detour. You’re stuck.
That was me. Stuck banging my head against the brick wall. I should have stopped as that wall was never going to budge. After nearly 24 years as a Police Officer, I knew how things worked and there was no way that I was going to be in a position to tear down that wall and carry on. Unfortunately I kept banging my head against the wall until my head could take it no further. My journey had stopped and things were definitely not going right!
I had been in the job for 12 years when I started analysing and investigating video. It wasn’t a post I applied for as there wasn’t a ‘post’ at all. I identified the challenges that Officers were faced with when dealing with the increasing amounts of CCTV and I knew I could do something about it. So I did.
The more I learnt, the more I wanted to understand and the years started to fly by. Supporting ACPO, the Home Office, the NPIA and then the College of Policing. I travelled worldwide to gain qualifications and experience in Forensic Video Analysis. Our little video unit, in one of the smallest Forces in the country was, in my opinion, to become one of the best in the UK.
I would research, test, validate and then share my findings. I was frustrated with the lack of information available online so started my own personal blog on the challenges here at www.spreadys.com.
Over the years I found that by posting a lot of my research and methodology online, video technicians, analysts and members of the public worldwide would contact me for advice. Receiving weird and wonderful files on a weekly basis, with questions on how to proceed correctly. Each one fuelled my passion further.
My early years in the Met had instilled in me certain values. Do it once, do it properly and be able to justify your decisions. When dealing with surveillance video, often of a questionable quality, it’s very easy to bypass certain methods to get that quick result. Would I be doing it properly, would I have to go over things again, would the results be accurate? Could I justify my shortcut if required? I always said to the team, “it’s OK to take a shortcut in certain circumstances, as long as you know the right way as well. If you don’t, it’s not a shortcut – it’s getting lost!”
In January 2014, I attended a highly positive meeting at the College of Policing’s HQ in Central London regarding CCTV evidence and Forensic Video Analysis. I highlighted the importance of learning and knowledge, due to the increasing amounts of digital multimedia evidence, not only from surveillance video but from mobile devices, dash-cams and the new kid on the block, Police Body Worn Video. As I was waiting for my train home, I received a phone call informing me that a strategic decision had been made and the entire Imaging unit was to close. The unit would be merged with others. Staff would be eligible for redundancy, and no police officers were to be included in the new model. I was the only officer. I was to be re-deployed!
In the end, my team all found jobs in other Forces, (and are all doing really well). I managed to cling on and give some of the new staff a few months training before I was unceremoniously told to leave as I “had built an expertise that the Force no longer requires”.
It was at this point then that I was up against the brick wall. After amassing an expertise that was incomparable, and continuously commended for my commitment, I was stuck.
It was many years ago that I decided to dedicate my career to the investigation of CCTV and Forensic Video Analysis. This was my road. Rather than study and jump through the ranks, I made the choice to study and become the subject matter expert. With no extra financial benefits, I gained my rewards from the thanks and appreciation that my fellow officers and staff bestowed upon me, after their requests were completed. I knew what they were up against, I understood the system, the legalities and the possible challenges that would lay ahead in an investigation. They respected my advice and expertise. By working together we got the job done.
I couldn’t just wait at that wall. With the amazing support and guidance of my peers and mentors within the worldwide Forensic Video community I now realise that in order to continue moving forward, I have to build my own road.
Sadly today I posted my letter of resignation to the Chief Constable. Although I am unable to continue my journey as a Police Officer, I must carry on. I was proud to serve on that thin blue line, doing my little bit to support those nearer the front. They trusted my knowledge, professionalism and impartiality. To be honest, they had far too much on their plate to worry about the video evidence so, by releasing them of the burden, I feel that it made their lives a little easier.
My passion and commitment has only been strengthened by this unexpected chapter. Although far from ideal, I will now continue to move forward, helping others to learn and understand Forensic Video Analysis and supporting people and organisations with their analysis requirements.
“Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” ~ Steve Jobs
As the next chapter in my life begins, and I start to lay the foundations for my new road, to all my family, friends and colleagues that have supported me, you have my utmost thanks.