In December 2013 Jen was on duty, patrolling in a police vehicle during a seasonal Drink Drive campaign. Jen began pursuit of an uninsured vehicle. As she approached a two-way junction, a vehicle came out into the road directly ahead of her, the driver at the wheel hadn’t seen or heard her approach. She hit the car, side on.
Jen returned to duty immediately. Some days later, she was informed her that the driver of the other vehicle had died. She was devastated.
Jen spent Christmas at home on advice from her GP, awaiting information about what would happen next. In January, she returned to work, but in her own words, “really struggled”. She felt isolated and ignored, not knowing what would happen next.
This is when she contacted the federation, and was allocated a solicitor who met her at her home. She wasn’t required to make a statement at this time, and this left her feeling very uncertain about process, and feeling unsupported, but as a member of the Group Insurance Scheme, she was offered counselling.
Whilst the investigation continued Jen felt ill informed about what was coming next, she says, “It was just as if nothing had happened, and I was really, really struggling at work as a result.”
In April 2014 she was served with notices, for driving with undue care and attention. She was interviewed under caution and gave her statement. In car evidence was also examined at this time. This was a very low point for Jen, and she felt had to “prove her innocence”. She was banned from driving at work during the investigation, and moved into an interim role.
At the inquest, Jen gave evidence and was represented and supported by the federation, and was grateful for the presence of her Chief Inspector. The coroner recorded a verdict of death by traffic collision. The coroner apportioned no blame on Jen for the death of the other driver.
At the end of July 2014 Jen was informed of the decision that there was no case to answer for any formal misconduct.
Three years later, Jen was returned to a driving role in a new team. Her symptoms of PTSD heightened, with fears about safety top of mind. She had recurrent nightmares, acute symptoms of anxiety, and worried all the time.
In September, Jen once again went to seek help and advice, from an past colleague, and from the federation. This time, she worked with Lisa Davies and says simply, “Lisa was brilliant. She said, we need to get you out, and do whatever it takes”. With help from the federation, a temporary role was identified. In March 2017, Jen took up a new, non-driving role.
We asked Jen, “What advice would you offer to a colleague based on your experience?”
She said, “Reach out, that’s what the federation is for. I felt isolated and really struggled for too long, not knowing what was going to happened to me, or when. With hindsight, I do wish that the federation had contacted me right away, because it was a very distressing time. But once I had their support, things started to get better. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for the help I received.”
Jen is not this service user’s real name.