‘Why I quit teaching to join the police in Sheffield’
From marking coursework to wrestling knife-wielding criminals, swapping teaching for life on the beat in Sheffield represents a dramatic career change.
But for PC Jason Beard, who gave up his job as an IT teacher to become a response officer based at Woodseats police station, there are more similarities than you might imagine.
“They’re obviously very different in many ways but there are some transferable skills, particularly when it comes to the way you deal with people,” says the 41-year-old Sheffielder, who made the leap after falling out of love with teaching.
“There are occasions as a police officer when you have to be quite harsh with people, but there are also times when simply talking to them can calm a situation down. I’d much rather talk to someone than have to be fighting with them.
“It’s important to be able to show a little bit of empathy and make people understand that for you this is more than just a job and you really do care.
“I don’t think some teachers realise how skilled they can be in conflict management, which is part and parcel of what they do.”
Jason taught for 15 years, ending up as a head of department at Queen Elizabeth’s Academy in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.
He found teaching rewarding at first, but the stresses and demands gradually ground him down and dimmed his passion for a profession he felt was no longer what he had signed up for.
It reached the stage where he dreaded going to work each day, and he had been looking for a way out for a while when the opportunity presented itself to take voluntary redundancy and join South Yorkshire Police two years ago.
Having already volunteered with the force as a special constable for 12 years, giving up at least 16 hours of his time a month and usually many more, he had some idea of what to expect.
But it was still a bold leap and one which meant taking a nearly 50 per cent pay cut.
Having completed his probationary period in May this year, he is now a fully-fledged police officer and is relishing the new career despite that financial sacrifice.
“I really enjoyed teaching at first because it can be so rewarding but I fell out of love with the job as I took on more responsibilities and found there was too much bureaucracy and politics and it had become a bit of an exam factory,” he said.
“There were days I would have done anything to avoid having to go to work, and I knew I needed a change.
“Money’s important but you can’t put a price on happiness, and there’s not a day now when I wake up and don’t want to go to work. I love the fact that as a police officer you never know what each day will bring.
“It’s a privilege and an honour to do this job and be there for people when they desperately need your help.
“You see the best and worst of people, and you meet people at the most dire times in their life, but knowing you can have a significant impact in helping them through those times is so rewarding.”
Woodseats police station is where Jason began his time as a special constable, before volunteering with various other departments including the road policing unit, with whom he attended numerous fatal crashes, and the team at Moss Way police station.
For him, it was a challenging but satisfying experience which gave him an unparalleled insight into the inner workings of the force whose paid ranks he would later join.
As he explains, you’re exposed to most of the same things you would be as a regular officer, and that can be ‘scary’.
Once, while he was based at Woodseats, Jason and a fellow special were called to assist colleagues who had confronted a suspect armed with a knife, and they had to use CS spray to detain him.
“You can face some very, very violent people and often it’s only on reflection, after attending a job, that you appreciate just how much danger you were in,” he says.
“The way I cope sometimes is by putting things like that into a little box in my head, which is for work stuff, and when I finish my shift I close the lid on that box.
“When I started as a special, my wife was petrified about the dangers I might face and would have sleepless nights wondering what was happening to me when I was working nights.
“It’s not the effect things have on you as a police officer so much as the effect they have on your family, because you really need their support to do this job.
“They need to understand you’re going to see and do things which aren’t very pleasant and which you might not want to talk about.
“There will be days you get home and you’ll be quiet and a bit grumpy not because of them but because of what you’ve witnessed at work.
“Knowing you have someone at home who cares about you is invaluable and the same goes for your work colleagues because you know they’re there if you need someone to talk to and they’ll come running if you get into difficulties.
“People talk about the police being one big family and that’s definitely true. You spend so much time with each other and see and do things that bring you very, very close.”
For Jason, the jobs which have given him the most satisfaction are those where he has helped to find high-risk missing people, who may be suicidal, and ensured they get the support they need.
But the most dramatic since earning his warrant card came when he and a colleague attended what was reported as burglary in progress and confronted a man who attempted to run.
When they tried to arrest him, he put up a struggle and, rather than trying to help police, onlookers attempted to pull the officers away, leaving Jason no choice but to press the ‘code zero’ emergency button to call for instant back-up which soon arrived.
The man in question was later found to have class A drugs worth thousands of pounds on him.
Jason, who in his spare time is a keen photographer and avid reader, would recommend a career with the police but accepts it is not for everyone and believes becoming a special constable is a great way to get a taste for the job.
Despite his lengthy spell as a volunteer, there was still a sharp learning curve when Jason joined the paid ranks.
“My background as a special helped for about the first fortnight of the 15-week training course, which is really intense and much more academic than many people realise because you have to learn about all the legislation and protocols,” he says.
“I didn’t appreciate how much more responsibility you have compared with being a special. You’re managing your own caseload and investigations, and you know if you do something wrong that might prevent a criminal from being held to account for their actions or lead to an innocent party being prosecuted for something they didn’t do.”