Barking and Dagenham’s youngest police officer, 19, talks dealing with murderers
- Credit: Archant
During his first day working in custody, one of his colleagues was almost strangled by a detainee.
But Bobby Hicks, who was just 18 years old at the time, wasn’t put off – and even says he wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.
Despite being noticeably much younger than everyone else at Fresh Wharf Custody Base in Barking, the former awardwinning police cadet is dogged in his ambition to progress in his chosen career.
Even the introduction of 12-hour shifts last month, and a gruelling shift pattern which often involves working six days on followed by four or five days off, hasn’t deterred Bobby, now 19.
“I love it,” he said. “I would go to work every single day if I could.”
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As a designated detention officer, his job involves “booking in” people who have been arrested, taking their fingerprints and photographs, recording their possessions and making sure they’re secure in their cell via regular checks.
Often he has to deal with confrontation from people accused of crimes as serious as murder in the ever-changing custody suite, which also acts as much-needed overflow for the neighbouring boroughs of Newham and Redbridge.
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One of his most dramatic experiences to date was when found a detainee lying on the floor of his cell gripping his chest.
“I hit the panic strips and shouted for help and an ambulance,” Bobby said. “He didn’t want to go to hospital because he had mental health issues and was convinced that he was going to be sectioned.”
Luckily, Bobby managed to persuade the man to go and it became apparent that he was having heart palpitations.
Amazingly, Bobby hasn’t always been so assertive, and was virtually housebound with crippling anxiety as a result of years of bullying when he was a student.
“Four years ago, I wouldn’t say boo to a goose,” he recalled. “I wouldn’t go out, I wouldn’t go to school, I would just stay at home so that no one would be able to pick on me.
“I’m quite small and I grew up without my dad, so I’m quite feminine and people used that to their advantage.”
Bobby’s attendance got so bad that he was home-tutored for a short period. Then, when he went back to Sydney Russell when he was 15, his name was put forward to join the borough’s police cadets.
“When the day came I was a bit scared so although I turned up, I ended up going home,” Bobby admitted. “I received a phone call the next day asking where I was and I went the next week and just stayed there since.
“It helped get me out there, I felt like I was part of the group and it kind of changed my life around.”
Along with his day job, Bobby’s also a Safer London Youth Ambassador which involves working with vulnerable young people to reduce crime and finding solutions to the challenges they face as well, as representing them during discussions with senior police staff.
“A lot of young people hate the police in general, they make assumptions that the police are always wrong and I feel quite strongly that I want them to see that behind the uniform there is a human being,” Bobby said.
“Even if I can change just one person’s mind then that’s good enough for me.”
He hopes one day to qualify for his dream job, as a dog handler.
“I’ve been out with the dogs on some night jobs and it was the most amazing time,” he said.
“But although I want to be a dog handler as long as I’m a police officer, I couldn’t care less.
“When I look back at the way I was three years ago to where I am now, I feel proud.”