Rt Revd Peter Hancock, Bishop of Bath and Wells received a warm welcome when he visited the headquarters of the Avon and Somerset Police force. He had spent the afternoon with them, “To see the people they are as much as the work they do.”
Bishop Peter asked to visit the centre to see the work of the force chaplains and talk with serving police officers to show his support for the work they do. He was also there to listen and to understand more about the pressures police officers face and the stresses they encounter.
He spent time in the busy communications centre, and spoke with staff. He listened in as one officer handled an emergency call and had a chat with Chief Superintendent, Will White and his colleague Detective Superintendent, Tina Robinson, Head of Serious and Organised Crime Investigations, before going out with officers in a patrol car in Bristol city centre.
There are 6000 staff and serving officers in the Avon and Somerset force. Senior Force Chaplain, Andy Paget, who arranged the Bishop’s visit and showed him around HQ, has worked with the police for more than 20 years. He says of his job, “We bring compassion, but we find it too.”
Andy knows only too well, “Police work has become increasingly complex and demanding. It is often daunting and sometimes dangerous. It can be stressful and dehumanising. Chaplains are not welfare officers, counsellors or psychologists, but are available as a listening ear to anyone who needs it in what ever way that might be.”
Bishop Peter says “Chaplaincy has already shown it can make a difference.” That’s a view echoed by the Chief Constable, of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Andy Marsh, “Supporting staff and officers as they face some of the most challenging human situations is essential to the wellbeing of those staff, but also is key to the public. Our staff and officers face numerous tragedies and emotional challenges as part of their work and helping them cope in turn helps them support the public better.”
Chaplain Andy Paget was recently awarded a Love Your Neighbour Award by the Bristol Multi-Faith Forum for promoting community cohesion & inclusiveness and making Bristol a better place to live. Speaking about the award Chief Superintendent Andy Marsh said. “Andy’s wise and experienced outlook is often called upon to add a different view and bring in views through his community engagement into the choices and judgements that have to be made.”
Throughout his visit Bishop Peter found officers to be very approachable and open about their work and the struggles they face. Forging even closer links with the force and showing that “Praying loving Christians can make a difference.”