James Willetts

Criminology, Policing and Investigation BA (Hons)

James always wanted to help people, and a desire to join the Police led him to study Policing and Criminology at BCU. After embracing the course and picking up the key skills he needed, James started his career at West Midlands Police, where he is now a Neighbourhood Officer for West Bromwich Town and is even the proud winner of a Pride of Britain Award. 

“Growing up, I actually wanted to be a pilot in the RAF, but I was tall even when I was in school, which meant I might grow too tall to fit in the cockpit! They told me if I kept on growing, I’m not going to be able to do it. But helping people was all I ever wanted to do, with my mother and my sister both being nurses.

I never wanted to go to university, but when I was working security alongside studying Public Services in college, I was told by someone who worked for the College of Policing that they were looking at those coming through to be a Police Officer needing a degree. I thought I was going to be done with education when I finished college, but to do the job I wanted, I’d need to go to university for three years. So, I enrolled on the Policing and Criminology course at BCU.

I had a good time studying at BCU. I found friends on my course who also wanted to join the police. I had amazing tutors, such as Jonathan Jackson and Ron Winch, who’d just retired from West Midlands Police. He helped me to get myself ready for all the assessments that I'd have to do, explaining what they are and what I’d ideally need to know when I get the job, which was invaluable advice. It was a good experience and definitely helped me get to where I am today.

I was still working security full-time alongside studying, so I’d go to my lectures in the day, go straight to work from there to do a night shift, and then sleep the next day. It gave me a lot of experience working with the public. I did that right up until I graduated, and then I joined West Midlands Police.

The Policing and Criminology course at BCU gave me a rounded view of both aspects, which prepared me for the work I do today. On the Criminology side, you learn about the thought processes of criminals, but the Policing aspect teach you what you need to know and what to expect when dealing with them, as well as how you need to prepare yourself for certain situations.

Nowadays, I’m the Neighbourhood Officer for West Bromwich Town, which I’ve been doing for two years. This job can be challenging, but I’ve found when it’s the job you want, you'll enjoy it.

I don’t really consider myself to have bad days in this job. When you’re called to something, while it’s a normal thing that we deal with, it’s often the worst day of that person’s life, so it’s important to remember that it’s different for us than it is for other people and treat it with compassion.

It helps when you've got a good team and supervision though, and I’m lucky that the people I work with are proactive like me, they want to go out and do things. I’ve known my supervision for years too, and he looks after us and backs us up.

No two days in my job are ever the same. Some days, you might be working on response, some days you might be working on backlogs. Typically, you come in, get ready and have a quick briefing where you find out who you’re going to be with for the day and what tasks you have to do. You might have to meet with victims or offenders too. Then, we go out on the town and engage with people, stop and search, detains and arrests if needed. It’s different every day.

Whilst I’d say my proudest achievement so far is getting into the police, me and my partner Leon have somehow ended up with a Pride of Britain award, just for doing what we normally do. We approached two individuals, who were suspected to be carrying knives, and they pulled them out and stabbed me and Leon. We managed to detain them, and despite our injuries, we returned to work the next day to give witness statements and fill out paperwork. As this is just normal work for us, I thought nothing of it!

Whilst I was working at the Commonwealth Games, Leon called me and told me that I needed to come to the station for a meeting with the Corporate Communications team. They told us that we were going to be meeting with someone from ITV, which turned out to be about Pride of Britain. So, we had a chat with them, answered their questions, and then we didn’t hear anything for a while, until we got through to the next round, where they wanted to record some segments and take pictures. So, one day when we were having a team talk, someone from ITV came bursting through with TV cameras to let us know we’d won the This Morning Emergency Services Pride of Britain award. That was how we found out!

It's definitely an achievement, because how many of the people can say they've got a Pride of Britain award?! It's a good feeling, but obviously, we got paid to do what we do. It's our patch and it's what we deal with. Realistically, it could have been worse. We are still breathing, still standing, still talking!

My advice to fellow BCU graduates just starting out in their policing career is always to make the tea and coffee! Because you're the one that’s learning. They're taking you out, you're learning from a lot of people who have been doing the job for years, so they are going to have to spend more time looking after you. So, make them a cup of tea!

Also, just listen through your training and listen to the people that are experienced. You get taught a lot of stuff in education and in training but then, as soon as you've done that, it's out in the field with people that know what they're doing. They've been doing it for a lot longer; they know the proper processes, so listen to them. And remember that you can’t expect everything to be how it looks too.

To me, I AM BCU means you’re part of a community.”

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