A TEENAGE police officer caught burglars in the act at a rugby club

Thirty years ago this is how Chief Insp Glen Westley began his career as a 19-year-old police constable in 1989.

Now the job is very different for the retiring district commander for Castle Point and Rochford.

Reminiscing he said: “The job that always stuck in my mind was when we received a tip-off that Thurrock Rugby Club was going to get broken into.

“So we went down there and parked up to wait. Before we knew it, there they were breaking into the club so while they were in there, we cordoned off the building and caught them in the act.

“To see a crime being committed like that and be able to catch them in the act was very fulfilling.

“I was then fortunate enough to secure a role as an armed response officer based at Laindon.

“Exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure, I can say without hesitation that it was one of the best roles I’ve held.”

Mr Westley recalled his first incident in Clacton where the team had to stop a lorry.

“They had stolen a safe and were believed to be armed,” he said.

“We managed to stop the lorry at gunpoint without incident and we actually managed to recover the safe and the suspects complied with our instructions.

“That was my first incident and it was quite nerve-wracking but rewarding at the same time.”

Mr Westley was promoted to sergeant and led a team of fellow armed officers.

“I was the youngest in age and experience,” he said. It was a real responsibility - I likened it to a crown court judge. There were times where one squeeze of a trigger and I would have taken a life from someone.

“But I always had faith in myself and my training that I would do the right thing if or when it came down to pointing a loaded gun at someone.”

Mr Westley was then promoted to the rank of inspector and took a role at the Force Control Room in Chelmsford.

“This was another role I loved and gave me a real insight into just how busy the force is.”

After being promoted to chief inspector, Mr Westley was appointed as the district commander for Castle Point and Rochford.

He said: “I have often referred to this district as the big district between two giants in terms of policing.

“Southend and Basildon have always ranked among the busiest areas in the county but it’s been my mission to make sure the policing of our district is heard, felt recognised and rewarded.

“They get the extra resources because they’re priority districts and I’ve had to shout to get myself heard

“I’m pleased to say that in my view it has worked and the recent uplift in officers is testament to that.

“The team I work with now give me a massive sense of pride.

“I see it every day first hand just how busy they are helping and protecting people.

“They do all of this with professionalism and - most of the time - with a smile on their face. I’m incredibly proud of them.”

He told the Echo how much the role had changed especially with an added focus on “hidden harm” crimes such as modern slavery,

Mr Westley, from Benfleet, said he feels the pressures facing officers in modern day policing are more complex and time-consuming compared to those from 30 years ago.

He added: “It’s fair to say obviously with austerity, we were really run down to the bottom rung of the ladder but it is starting to recover in the last year or so and the uplift in the number of officers has helped.

“But there’s things now like hidden harms including child sexual exploitation and modern slavery which might have barely registered 30 years ago.

“We have teams set up to investigate and tackle these crimes but those teams have come from frontline officers.

“I’m not saying we’re woefully understaffed but the cake is cut in different places now and there are different demands on the team.”

“Domestic abuse is also top of the policing agenda. One incident that might have taken one hour to deal with years ago now might take four hours because we deal with it differently.

“I’m not saying that’s wrong just that it’s different but police officers are very good at coping with the demands no matter what.

“When it does get busy and they are pushed to the limit, everyone pulls together.”