‘The job is tough’: Superintendent discusses work of emergency response officers in east London

Superintendent Gerry Parker. Picture: Met Police

Superintendent Gerry Parker. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Met Police

In our latest feature focusing on the work of the Met Police in east London, reporter Michael Cox speaks to Superintendent Gerry Parker on the work of emergency response teams.

“You’ve got to be good at everything.” The demands of an officer who has to attend emergency calls require a complete set of skills, according to Superintendent Gerry Parker.

He is the strand lead for emergency response in the East Area BCU, which covers Havering, Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge.

Supt Parker’s department is the largest in the unit, with around 600 officers in 15 teams across three sites.

He said: “Their job is basically to go out and deal with the greatest threats to the public first.

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“We are very much in the remit now of solving crime and being proactive - so stop and search and dealing with violence on the streets and a real drive around domestic abuse and vulnerability.”

Supt Parker said that no day is ever the same for his officers. On a recent shift, he recalled attending two domestic incidents, an unexplained death and an ongoing burglary in the space of just three hours.

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“The breadth that the officers deal with is quite amazing and they blow me away. I’m very proud of how they rise to every challenge that’s put in front of them.”

When asked what the toughest part of the job is for emergency response officers, he felt it was maintaining their physical and mental wellbeing.

“The officers work very, very hard every day. They don’t really get a lot of downtime. The notion that they’re sitting eating lunch and drinking cups of tea or whatever - for a response team, it’s very rare that they get a decent break or a meal or anything.

“The job is tough. They experience trauma, physical assaults and they have to look after each other.

“As their boss, I put a massive focus on looking after them and their welfare.

“You could, if you’re unlucky, be dealing with several deceased people or serious violence incidents once or twice in a duty.

“We need to be alive to that because that’s a very tough position to be in emotionally. Officers are built of strong stuff but everyone has got a tipping point.”

Another major objective for his team is tackling domestic abuse - which Supt Parker said has gone up across the East Area during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“That first call for assistance, statistically we know that’s probably not the first incident that victim has suffered from. It’s just the first time they have called us.

“So showing empathy, professionalism and investing time to understand the circumstances they find themselves in is really important.”

Supt Parker joined the Met last year after 19 years at Essex Police, where he worked in response before rising through the ranks to become district commander for Chelmsford and Maldon.

A key mantra of his leadership style is “if we get it wrong, we learn from it and we move on.”

He said: “Something that I talk about regularly is putting the victim at the centre of the investigation and understand that to be a victim of crime, it’s really impactive on someone’s life.”

The East Area BCU was formed in January 2017 and in September of that year, statistics were published revealing that one in three priority calls was not being responded to quickly enough since the merger began.

Although improvements have been made, figures published in a report on Havering Council’s website showed that between April and June this year, police responded to around 83 per cent of immediate grade (I) calls within 15 minutes across the East Area.

For significant (S) grade calls, this number dropped to around 71pc responded to within one hour of a call being made.

The Met’s target for both of these figures is 90pc but Supt Parker said: “Response times are important but it’s important that we do a good job when we’re at the scene of a crime and we don’t just chase the next call.

“Being victim-focused and investing some time to get that investigation right is a priority for me. Because by doing that, we will have a greater chance of having success for that victim longer term.

“When you align that to something like domestic abuse, do I want my officers arriving at that job, doing a five minute job and leaving? Not really.

“I want them to invest time into that victim and solve the long-term problem because that might be another 20 calls down the line.”

The department lead said he joined the Met for a challenge and has liked learning about communities across the three boroughs.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning the structure of not just the Met but the local communities within our BCU and the diversity that you see.

“It’s really inspiring actually to be part of that.”

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