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How to become a good response officer

Published on 15 June 2022
Sergeant Richard Horton talks about what it takes to become a good response officer on our Inside policing podcast
5 mins read

Sergeant Richard Horton is a recently-retired police sergeant with more than 29 years of service across several areas of policing, including working as a detective and handling informants.

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Sergeant Horton believes there is no template for a good cop and that everyone brings something different to a team. 

However, all new response officers should have a basic level of training when they leave the classroom, he explains. 

I would expect a decent basic legal knowledge. I think on response, it’s fair to say you are dealing with probably the same 30 offences over and over and over again. I would expect them to go through the tutor con process and to be comfortable with working by themselves, to be comfortable with dealing with members of the public.

Another important part of becoming a good cop is learning from tutor constables, explains Sergeant Horton, who play a key role in shaping new recruits.

I was lucky I had two different tutor constables. The first one was very much about powers, procedures, definitions and to be expected to have your boots shiny, creases in the right place in your trousers. This officer was also very good around the paperwork side of things, around getting statements, looking professional, around organising a file of evidence. That was a terrifically useful grounding for me to pick up those things.

The second tutor constable I had was, as you said, the street craft, the trade craft constable, and taught me the different ways of resolving situations with people, dealing with people, talking with people, getting to the right level. And I picked that up from him and again, it was just a terrifically useful grounding. I couldn’t have got both from the same officer.

Finally, all new recruits need to learn and work on their own. Mistakes are an inevitable and important part of development – but your sergeant is always there to talk things through, he says.  

Your sarge is kind of there as the backstop, as a repository of experience and decision making. So run things past that experienced member of your team whose judgement you trust.

If you made a mistake, if you’ve done something that’s wrong, you need again to speak to your sergeant about it. Nobody likes surprises, least of all sergeants when a complaint comes in that they’re not necessarily ready for or where some criticism comes in regarding the officer’s work that you’re not necessarily ready for.

Speak to your sergeant, because almost always it will be salvageable and it should be a learning experience for you.

Sergeant Horton's parting advice for any new recruits coming into the police would be to get stuck in and to remember your training.

That training equipped me so that when I went to my first shoplifter, I dealt with it competently, got them in, got them processed through custody, got the file in, got all the basics done. And that was me. There was no support there.

The first time you do that, it’s a little bit heart in mouth and ‘what have I forgotten? What have I not done?’ But you get through it. And the second time it’s not as impactful on you and it becomes everyday business fairly quickly.

Listen to the podcast

Listen to the full episode about what makes a good cop.

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About Inside policing

Inside policing is the monthly podcast for everyone with an interest in policing, crime reduction and criminal justice.

Each episode brings together voices from across the service, sharing knowledge and insight on critical issues in policing. Over the coming months, we will be discussing insights into digital policing and much more.

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