Chief Inspector Stuart Bell has been in the police force for just over 18 years, starting out as a constable and working his way up through the ranks. He was also the Christian Police Association leader for Dyfed-Powys for five years. Here he talks about his experiences as a police officer, and offers his advice to anyone in the Christian community considering a career in the police.
What inspired you to become a police officer?
I think it’s just that old cliché of wanting to do something good. It’s wanting to have a job where, when you put your head on the pillow at the end of the day, you know you’ve done something worthwhile.
How does it feel knowing you’re making a real difference to people’s lives?
As a service, we’re often in situations where you’re helping people who are going through their toughest times. I’ve talked a woman down from jumping off a cliff, I was involved in the riots in London and I’ve been the first person to tell a mum and dad the heart-breaking news that their child has died. As a human being, it’s nice to be in a position where you can help members of the public and your colleagues who might be facing their own challenges too. Likewise, there’s also support available within the service to help you look after your own wellbeing.
How does your faith help you in policing?
My faith is a tremendous help in my life in general, but certainly in my policing life. That’s the leveller for me. When I have a few too many balls in the air, or when a situation presents itself that would previously have caused me to struggle, being able to draw on my faith just lifts the burden.
How do you practice your faith alongside work?
There’s always a degree of flexibility in rotas and shifts, but with this job you have to expect that you’ll miss church on a Sunday sometimes. As a Christian, I’m driven by a desire to contribute and do something good. The way I see it, going to church is wonderful but so is what I can contribute as an officer on duty.
Are you a member of the Christian Police Association? If so, how has it supported you in your career?
I was the Christian Police Association leader at my force, Dyfed-Powys, for five years. It’s a great forum to come together with other Christian officers and police staff. We encourage and equip one another to go out there and do our jobs as police officers but also as people of faith.
As someone who’s climbed the ranks in policing, what advice would you give to ambitious officers?
I think it’s really important to enjoy where you are. On my way to becoming a Chief Inspector, I did five years as a constable, five years as a sergeant and five years as an inspector. I went for the next rank when I felt ready, not because I had a five-year plan or to earn more money. Also, there are other specialisms you can progress in, like a dog handler or detective, so remember to look left and right.
You normally host the annual force carol service. Why is this event important to you?
The carol service is a tremendous opportunity to be with 130-140 people in a room where we can all have a bit of fun, sing some songs and share some stories. It’s certainly not just for Christians, it’s for people of all faiths and no faith. For some people, this will be their only experience of church for a whole year, and I do my best to make it a positive, engaging and affirming one. This year, we’ll probably be doing something online.
What’s it like to work over Christmas and other Christian celebrations?
I’ve worked over Christmas and New Year a few times and there are two sides to the coin. On one side, you’re away from your family, but on the other side you have this unusual and uniquely privileged shared experience with your colleagues.
What advice do you have for someone from the Christian community who is considering joining the police?
There are few jobs in the world where you get to look after your community. All of the people we deal with – victims, criminals, colleagues, witnesses – have their own story and deserve compassion. If you think your faith will help you show more compassion and more kindness, then this is definitely a career worth thinking about.
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