Inspector Jason Peter has worked as a police officer for the past 15 years. In January 2021 he took up post to lead the SVRU’s work in Ayrshire. He has been working across the area, with a primary focus in Wallacetown – a community in Ayr, South Ayrshire. In this piece, Inspector Peter reflects on his first year and discusses why he believes in the importance of getting alongside people to create solutions together.
Why did the post at the SVRU appeal to you?
I’ve followed the work of the SVRU since it started. I was struck by the then-Chief Constable, Willie Rae, creating the space for people to ‘do something different’ and enabling his team to ‘just do it’, with ‘it’ being the right thing – or at least to head in the right direction with the willingness to tweak things as you go to make a real difference.
I joined the police to help people – to put something back and make a difference. What I have learned most over the years is that the difference can come in many ways. They say every contact leaves a trace and that is true. Even the simple “morning” or “afternoon” with a smile and nod as we pass others in the street can brighten someone else’s day. At times, our duties have a much wider impact on people and communities, ourselves included, and I wanted to understand this more.
I was drawn to roles in policing that provided an opportunity to build relationships with people, like community policing and partnership roles, to help me understand better our role in ‘keeping people safe’. In policing, we have a part to play – a very unique part with the powers invested in officers – but wherever I have worked it has been the community that held the key to a better future. In the past few years we have heard more about how communities have responded during the pandemic but there is loads of this work that takes place under the radar every day and I have been lucky enough to see this first hand. Service providers can do so much but individuals hold the solutions to the challenges we face and we must involve people more in the decisions we make. Communities have been part of the SVRU’s work throughout our time – we know safe places are created by engaged communities and I am keen to build on this work.
What has struck you the most about your first year in post?
Before taking up the position, I started to look at some of the data – the statistics on deprivation, hospital admissions, police incidents – anything that would help me understand ‘the problem’. Get alongside people though and you gain a deeper understanding of how what we do, as service providers, impacts on others – both positively and negatively. I am grateful to the people – residents and service providers – who have taken the time to share their perspective.
The data told me all the negatives – the people told me that but balanced them with loads of positives. The stories of great neighbours and staff going above and beyond brought people back in to the picture. It can be easy at times to lose sight of our shared goals but it’s important to remember we want the same things. Be that as organisations to make Scotland the safest country to live in the world or as individuals to live safe, healthy lives and support those who matter most to us – we all want the best for the future.
What have some of the positives been from your first year?
There have been loads of highlights this year – including meeting some great new people and reconnecting with others, seeing young people shift from offending to employment and challenging my own perspective when taking time to listen and understand that of others. There are many inspirational quotes, words and phrases that are rolled out in situations like this but I struggle to sum up my experience in a few words – all I can say is thank you, but there’s more to do.
What lies ahead now?
The past few years have seen challenges no-one would ever have imagined in the 21st century, add to this to the fact that we, as humans, generally don’t like change – we cope best when things are predictable and manageable – there is no wonder people are struggling. There are some great people doing great things in organisations and communities but the pressures are uncharted and it is important that we recognise this and direct our support where needed – including to those delivering on the ‘front line’.
The old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is true on a personal and professional basis – the evidence is there. We need to talk more and when people talk more we must really listen and when necessary do more. In every situation my use of the word more doesn’t mean physically more – we need to get smarter about the conversations and actions we are undertaking. The answers are there – in our people and our communities. We need to get alongside people, hear their experience and thoughts on solutions then work with them to drive change.