One of Coventry’s long-serving police officers has laid bare what life on the frontline is like ahead of a Wasps match that has been dedicated to celebrating the emergency services.
The Black and Golds are offering free entry to all emergency services workers for the Club’s Gallagher Premiership clash against Worcester Warriors on Saturday 28 March – and Sergeant Matt Manwaring from Coventry Central Police Station will be one of the hundreds of emergency services workers in attendance.
Matt is fast approaching his 23rd year of service with West Midlands Police – most of which have been serving the Coventry community as a response officer – and now supervises up to 30 police constables from Coventry Central Police Station on Little Park Street.
“A typical day just doesn’t exist in the police force because you never know what you’re going to walk into at the start of your shift,” he said.
“Ultimately, my job now is to use all of my past experience to prioritise which jobs the officers on the frontline respond to in order to ensure we are making the biggest difference we can in our communities, whilst equally ensuring my officers return home safely to their loved ones.
“The police force has changed without doubt since I first joined in the mid-1990s.
“When I first joined there were three stations in Coventry compared to the one nowadays, however, the technology that we have now – such as tasers, body cameras and mobile devices – means officers are better protected and connected than ever before, meaning they can be patrolling the streets for longer without having to come back to the station for administrative tasks.
“One of the biggest changes within the workforce has been attitudes towards mental health. We need to normalise any emotions that our officers are feeling after experiencing a traumatic incident, otherwise they will feel on their own and possibly bottle things up.
“That’s why we have introduced a trauma risk management initiative (TRiM), whereby frontline officers are assessed by specially trained practitioners, who are also their peers, following an incident to establish if they need any psychological support. TRiM is a tried-and-tested peer support system widely used by the military across the UK and rapidly expanding into the emergency services.
“Sadly, around 20 to 40 per cent of our work in Coventry at the minute is related to mental health – and if we receive reports that somebody is trying to or has taken their own life, we are usually the first ones on the scene.
“Another area of crime we are seeing on the rise is youth violence and knife crime – if we don’t receive any reports of this on any given day, then it is considered a good shift. We’re also seeing a rise in the number of catalytic converter theft from vehicles because the metal has a high value. Rest assured every officer in Coventry is working tirelessly to combat both and protect the vulnerable people involved.”
When Matt isn’t at work, he can be found volunteering for the mental health initiative It Takes Balls To Talk (ITBTT) – a suicide prevention campaign that targets sporting events with the aim of encouraging more men to talk about how they are feeling.
Matt added: “I love my job because it is really rewarding when you know you’ve helped someone, and I live by the same principle outside of work too, which is why I am involved with ITBTT alongside their founder, Alex Cotton MBE.
“Around 75 per cent of male suicides aren’t previously known to mental health organisations, which suggests that they aren’t opening up about their feelings, which is something I am passionate about trying to change alongside Alex.
“The work that ITBTT does also has a direct link on West Midlands Police too, because the more men who open up about their feelings, the less call-outs we will receive relating to suicide.
“I’ve forged some great relationships with people at Wasps through my volunteering with ITBTT over the past few years, and their appreciation that is shown for the emergency services is simply fantastic.”
Verity Brown, Marketing Manager at Wasps, said: “It is through our working relationship with the likes of Matt that you get a real eye-opener of the amount of hard work the emergency services put in to protect and make a difference to the general public.
“That’s why we dedicate one of our home fixtures every year to the emergency services, to say thank you for their efforts and shine a light on how important they are.”
Emergency services personnel who wish to take advantage of a free ticket for themselves and their family to Wasps versus Worcester Warriors should email email@example.com from their work email address.
Tickets to Wasps v Worcester Warriors on Saturday 28 March are available by clicking the link below or calling 02476 786411.