PC Gary Arterton
Name: Gary Arterton
Role: DG Safer Schools Officer
Length of time at the school: 14 Years
The following interview was conducted by Martha, Afizah & Sophia in Year 7 and was featured in our newsletter of 25th October 2022.
What do you do at Deptford Green?
I am a Safer Schools Police Officer – that role is all about Early Intervention and Youth Engagement which means breaking down barriers and dispelling some of the myths that surround the Police Force. It’s about trying to build up positive relationships with young people so they get a view of what we’re trying to do in the community but our main role within schools is not enforcement but engagement and relationship. For example, I run a Boxing course – the idea of which is to help give young people positive things to do outside of school. The police want to start working with people as young as Year 7 so that if someone is looking like they have the potential to go down the wrong path, we (SSPO’s) can work with the parents and the school on the best way to steer that young person on a better path.
Do you enjoy working here?
Yes I really like it otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed in the role such a long time. Whilst I do end up dealing with some difficult issues at times, that’s not the major part of the job. I speak with young people in school and build up relationships, talking with students on Fordham Park at the end of the school day and saying hello when I’m in the building.
Did you always want to be a Police Officer?
No! If you’d have asked me what I wanted to do in Year7 I would have said football! As a teenager I was with a couple of professional clubs – I was with West Ham & Gillingham but when I got to 16, sadly it was evident that I wasn’t quite good enough to make it as a professional so I needed to look at something else and ended up going into the Sports & Leisure industry from the age of 16 – 30. I started off as a lifeguard then worked my way up to becoming management. I ran a small sports club for 3 years and then got made redundant. By this time I had a young family so I needed a job that was secure. I looked at what transferable skills I had got that meant I could gain stability but would also utilise what I was good at and joining the police seemed the obvious choice. This is why I have ended up in Community Policing because previously I was in the Safer Neighbourhoods Team where the emphasis wasn’t so much on the enforcement side of things, rather the engagement side of the job which I enjoy.
If you weren't a Police Officer what would you want to be?
Again, probably something involved in Sport – Sports Development perhaps? I still do a bit of coaching on the side so that’s probably where I’d have been.
How did you end up at Deptford Green?
About 2 years before I came here there was the very first Safer Schools Police officer in the borough - a lady called Sandra Campbell. She had been in post for a year but decided it wasn’t the area of policing she wanted to be in so there was no Police Officer at Deptford Green the following year but they really wanted someone in post and I considered it and decided to give it a go. Originally there were only 8 schools in the borough who had Safer Schools Officers – there used to be a bit of a stigma attached to having a SSPO attached to a school. The original thought was that maybe parents would look at the school and say ‘It must be a really bad school if you have a policeman attached to it’ but now, because of the success of the scheme, every school in the borough has one. I also cover Addey & Stanhope School and Christ The King Sixth Form College up on Sprules Road.
How do you manage covering all 3 sites?
Well you should ask my boss that! No it’s not too bad because don’t forget I don’t spend all day at the school, although as Deptford Green is the largest, I tend to spend the majority of my time here. We have nearly 1000 pupils here and A&S has about 600 and then the Sixth form is smaller again as it’s only 16-18 year olds, but I manage to divide my time well.
Are you happy being at Deptford Green when you're here?
Yes very much so. If not I wouldn’t have stayed for 14 years!
What's your best memory at DG?
That’s a tough one! Not sure I have one specific one. Generally it’s when students see you when they’ve left school completely and grown-up, and they come up to you on the street and thank you for something you’ve done because at the time, students aren’t always appreciative of what you’ve tried to do for them, particularly when they are much younger. It’s only when they reflect; they’ve grown up and matured and they look back and think ‘Actually that Police officer did me a bit of a favour in that instance’. By this time these are big lads, 6ft 4 or 6ft 5 coming up to me and telling me they are grateful for what I did for them back when they were in Y9 or Y0. That’s what probably sticks in the mind. When you work in schools with young people, you’re engaging with them every single day and success is not measurable like in other kinds of policing where you have solid data to back you up. What we do as SSPO’s isn’t really measurable as such. We don’t really know what we prevent when we’re out on Fordham park other than we know students aren’t usually going to cause trouble or commit a crime directly in front of a Police officer! So we don’t really know what we’ve done for young people until they tell us.
What is the worst thing you’ve ever seen as a Police Officer inside and out of school?
Well to be honest with you, in school we really haven’t seen anything too bad – most of what I deal with that is more challenging is outside of school. I don’t want to talk about specifics but the worst type of situations are where young people are vulnerable and maybe something bad has happened to them or their domestic situation is very challenging. Those are the hardest type of issues to face and deal with but again, these things aren’t seen in the school itself. Outside of school this often doesn’t involve our students at DG. It might be a member of the public who is intoxicated and approaching our young people on Fordham Park or targeting them for some reason, but again most people don’t commit crime right in front of a police officer.
What are you most proud of in terms of being a policeman and otherwise?
I wouldn’t say it’s just one specific thing. I’m proud of what I do and the work I’ve carried out. The relationships I have with young people within school makes me proud, but I wouldn’t say there’s one single thing – rather the overall relationships I’ve had in the past and have with the young people I work with now. Not everyone’s going to like me, but generally I get on well with most young people I come across.
Why did you start a Boxing Club and why Boxing?
Actually, I fell into it a bit by mistake! The club was already set up by someone else. This was about 16 years ago and the idea of the club was to give young people something positive to do, leading them away from anti-social behaviour and getting them on good terms with the police. The Police Officer that had set it up working with a local boxing club then moved away and at the time a police sergeant, my boss, said to me that I was really the only SSPO that was well-connected to sport so would I like to take over? I knew very little about Boxing at that time so what I did was I facilitated it, applied for some funding and got other guys to come in and teach the actual boxing but as it went along I started to pick it up, learning off the coaches, then I got a Boxing qualification and even though I still have another coach that comes and works alongside me, that’s how it materialised. Boxing is a very positive form of sport. It gives young people something to do and is a real discipline and strengthens self-control and within that, we are building up relationships and they see that the police are not just a uniform. It’s a positive way of breaking down barriers.
Have you ever thought of teaching pupils to become Police Officers?
We do that! Well not specifically me but one of my colleagues does. We hold Police Cadets at Deptford Green every Thursday evening in the Sports Hall. If pupils want to join, they can join. If any pupil is interested, they should let me know, and I will get my colleague to contact them. Occasionally we go into assemblies and let students know what Police Cadets is all about. Watch this space for that!
At this point we came to the end of our interview and the girls and I thanked PC Arterton for taking part and being so willing to give us an interview and give of his time. I also thanked the girls for writing the questions and conducting the interview.
What a great start Martha, Afizah and Sophia are having to their first year at Deptford Green! Thank you girls for getting involved and also for being such wonderful and happy students in our library every day!
Ms Walker, Librarian