It’s Neighbourhood Policing Week, so we’ve been asking some of our long-serving Police Officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) what they love about their work and what have been the proudest achievements in their careers.
From saving lives, tackling the problems that matter most to local people and safeguarding vulnerable people in communities to providing invaluable support at national events such as the Commonwealth Games and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, there is never a dull moment.
Sean Underwood, Police Sergeant – Bristol City Centre
Sean has been with us for 21 years and has spent the last eight years as a Police Sergeant. Sean developed a passion for Neighbourhood Policing while working as the beat manager for Lawrence Weston in north Bristol and currently works as a Neighbourhood Policing Team Sergeant in Bristol.
During his career Sean has been nominated for a number of awards, often by people within the communities he serves, including a nomination from someone he’d arrested.
Sean has done a lot of engagement with young people in his area, including running pizza nights at local youth clubs. Helping young people avoid making choices which would see them fall into the criminal justice system is something Sean is extremely passionate about – one of the people he gave support to while they were a teenager now has a successful career working in London.
“In Neighbourhood Policing I can do what I joined the job to do: make a difference to the community. Our focus on problem solving, and partnership work means we can see the effect that this has in your community.
“I’m inspired by officers of all ranks, and local community workers and volunteers that want to improve their local area and put so much effort in to making the place better.”
Kay Rees, PCSO – Kingswood
Kay is a PCSO in Kingswood. She joined us in 2002 as a call handler before becoming one of our first PCSOs in 2004.
“I have been a PCSO now for almost 20 years and I still love my job, not once I have woken up and not wanted to go to work in the morning. It can be tough, and it’s challenging, and there have been situations where we have had to really think outside of the box to find solutions. However, I am fortunate to be supported by a really good team, and we have developed strong relationships with partner organisations in South Gloucestershire that really are making a difference to people’s lives.”
“Recently at a community event, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in years, who at the time had been addicted to heroin, she told me that she has now been clean for 10 years and is working for a charity to help other people in similar situations. She thanked me for looking out for her and her family and said I had saved her life. That really touched me, and it is moments like this that make the job worth doing.”
Sam White, PCSO – Wells
Sam has been a Police Community Support Officer with us for five years now and is based in Wells. Alongside this, Sam is also a hate crime champion, a social media representative, a rural crime representative in his area and a tutor.
“My proudest achievement during my career, came in January 2023 when I was presented with a Royal Humane Society award in relation to an incident from July 2021, where a man was successfully resuscitated back to life. The award is something I never expected or wanted, but acts as a reminder that this job allows us to do things that we would never have thought we would be capable of.
“I am fortunate to live in the area I work in, and whether it’s getting a pint of milk from the shops or walking round the market, I am enveloped in my community. This isn’t a job to me, this is my life, and my actions and decisions have an impact on both me and those around me.
“People need to understand that this role, this organisation has a huge impact on our lives, and we don’t always have the ability to switch off. It’s both physically and mentally challenging, and yet we come in day after day, prepared to put ourselves in harm’s way to help other and better our communities.
“Sometimes that’s a hard thing to come to understand and accept, in yourself as well as for family and friends. But we do it because we are passionate about what we do.”
Leigh Watts, Police Constable – Bath
After spending 18 years working in Response Policing, Leigh is now a part of the Bath Neighbourhood Policing Team.
Some of Leigh’s proudest moments have been when representing Avon and Somerset Police at the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and providing support at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, as part of our Project Servator (Counter Terrorism Policing) team.
“I like Neighbourhood Policing as you can really immerse yourself within the local community you serve.” Leigh says. “I enjoy patrolling the streets on foot and being a very visible presence to help deter crime and reassure the public.”
Melanie Rowlands, PCSO – Glastonbury
Mel has been serving the communities of Somerset for over 32 years. She began her career as a traffic warden, then moved to our Bridgwater enquiry office before becoming one of our first Police Community Support Officers. Since 2004, Mel has been based in Glastonbury.
“Having worked in the Glastonbury area for some 20 years, I have been able to build up strong connections with partner agencies, local businesses, schools, and many others and having that amount of knowledge has helped other departments within Avon and Somerset Police.” says Mel.
“Our Neighbourhood team is an integral part of the community and I have made myself known to as many people as possible. Ten years ago, I did a diploma in witchcraft so that I could help with the local witch covens and understand their needs.
“The joy of the role is that you never know what you are going to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Although in all my years in Glastonbury, I have never been to our famous festival! We always remain in the town to support the local community with the huge influx of visitors and any problems during that time. It is surprising how many people turn up looking for the festival in the town centre when it is seven miles down the road!”
Caroline Harris, PCSO – Clevedon
Caroline has been with us since 1999 and initially worked within an enquiry office. Since 2008, she has been a Police Community Support Officer for Clevedon.
“It is rare that I walk down the street without being stopped by members of my community who want to talk to me and discuss local issues. I feel like I am embedded in the community and still make a difference, even after 17 years.” says Caroline. “The role isn’t glamorous and can be cold and wet with long hours, but it is all worth it when I can make a positive difference to someone’s life.
“It involves lots of listening, talking, working well together and building great working relationships with partner agencies.
“Early on in my role, I worked closely with a group of youths involved with anti-social behaviour who said they were bored. I managed to secure some funding for them to get involved in positive activities. Recently, I bumped into one of them who introduced me to their daughter by saying: “This lady keeps you safe and helped me.
“Over the last six years, I have also run the Mini Police scheme within primary schools, which is a positive way to engage with young people and help them understand the role of police officers and get involved in social action projects within the community.”
Terry Murphy, Acting Neighbourhood Inspector – Bristol South
Terry is an acting Neighbourhood Inspector in South Bristol. He joined Avon and Somerset Police in 2002 and has previously been a Beat Manager in Staple Hill and a Neighbourhood Sergeant in Chipping Sodbury.
Terry says: “Throughout my career I have seen the importance of neighbourhood policing in engaging with the community, building trust and confidence, and solving issues for the long term.
“It’s about taking a proactive, not reactive, approach to a community’s problems. For example, I have been involved in tacking County Lines as a community issue. By putting time and effort into problem solving, our team were able to remove the problem and make a real impact in safeguarding the lives of many vulnerable members of the community.
“Neighbourhood policing makes a difference in improving people’s lives. I particularly enjoy the problem-solving element to the role.
“The communities we serve are at the heart of everything we do. We cannot tackle issues alone, however. To provide an outstanding service, we need to work with partners to achieve long term solutions.”
Rebecca Wells-Cole, Temporary Chief Inspector – Somerset West
Rebecca has been a Metropolitan Police Officer since 2002. She joined us in 2020 and is now Temporary Chief Inspector for Neighbourhood Policing in Somerset West.
Policing was always her choice of career. “I wanted to work in a role where no two days were the same. I wanted to make a difference and support people when they need it most. This is Neighbourhood Policing in a nutshell.” Rebecca explains.
“My current role involves planning our deployment of resources and looking after the safety and well-being of the staff I lead. We look after the public, working hard to respond effectively to problems, incidents, and crimes. Somerset West covers a huge geographical area, encompassing rural and urban areas.
“I am hugely proud to be part of a dedicated team that is passionate about making our communities safer. It is inspiring to see how committed everyone is to deliver a good service through community engagement, crime prevention and collaborative problem solving.”