A day out with Rochdale response: The robust, relentless and reliable resource in the rain
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It was a typical September Wednesday in Greater Manchester, with the rain plummeting down from all angles. As the community they serve were just starting to wake up to go about their day as the dark mornings have returned, a group of dedicated police officers solely focused on response were beginning to start their 7am-4pm day shift in Rochdale.
The unforgiving role is what is expected – tough and demanding but rewarding. Response officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) are the first line of defence and the ones who are there at a scene offering reassurance. The true essence of policing and what most people recognise; they’re the boots on the ground dedicated to keeping you safe.
Before they race out of the bottom floor of the station in The Esplanade to whatever type of call comes in regarding a 999 incident, they start their day with a briefing.
A close-knit group of around 10 officers, they socialise together away from the stresses, a key component to keep spirits high as well as showcasing they have each other backs.
Inspector Lisa Bennett leads the 7am briefing starting at the strike of the clock, with officers coming in early to ensure they’re ready for their shift.
This morning meeting goes through the handover from the previous team of response officers, including any outstanding jobs as well as key people they need to keep an eye out for to arrest, prisoner checks and the other demands of the day.
Inspector Bennett remains at the station co-ordinating the response from the district as well as dealing with any queries and complaints that come in from the public, to offer a reassuring voice that their concerns will be dealt with. Another meeting was scheduled at 8am for the district to discuss their day ahead as a whole from all departments, before a senior officer conducts a further one at 9am with the whole GMP force.
On this occasion nothing of note or criticality needs handing over meaning the team can start afresh and on the front foot.
Police Constable Emily Tonge was the officer who, a teacher in the past, moved into the police and hasn’t looked back. The unpredictability of the role as well as the excitement is what appealed to her.
There aren’t many moments in the day that mean they can take a moment for themselves, with the work out and about, in conjunction with returning the station to finish off their tasks and conduct vehicle checks to ensure they are in prime condition to be used at a moment’s notice.
By 9am PC Tonge had been a part of a team conducting four arrest attempts across the town, one coming from neighbouring force Lancashire due to suspected malicious communications and intelligence suggesting they were back in Rochdale.
Whilst the officers check logs for ongoing jobs and carry out further tasks, a further arrest attempt was made for a domestic violence assault.
Each time they attend an address not knowing fully what to expect or who they are going to come into contact with. Always having to stay on their guard.
As rush hour was in full swing for work and school, a response on blue lights was needed at 9:30am, with PC Tonge standard driver trained, to a report of a suspected assault in nearby Heywood which resulted in a man being arrested and taken to custody for questioning. PC Tonge after arresting the suspect had to stay at the scene to take a statement from the concerned victim to ensure a prompt and effective investigation could take place, showcasing her empathy skills after the adrenaline rush to respond to the initial incident.
Less than an hour later she was joined by PC Jessica Clement for the concern for the welfare of a man in Milnrow after the district were made aware of some worrying messages that meant they had to act sooner rather than later.
They dealt with him diligently and with immense care, before rushing off to the next emergency call half an hour later and another report of a domestic assault back in Heywood, racing through the streets of the centre of town on blue lights to get there as quick as they could.
Still in his early career at GMP, seven weeks in fact, PC Thomas Hughes was also at the scene and expressed his delight at his role and how he relishes each day helping to keep the people of Rochdale safe.
With the day coming up to midday, and no real chance to take in what has happened in their opening five hours, taking in fuel in the form of energy drinks and snacks to keep the body ticking over, they dealt with the incident swiftly as a team before heading back to Rochdale to see what else was in store.
As the clock ticks closer to 4pm and the end of their day shift, with the weather brightening up, Inspector Bennett began to handover to the night team, another set of response officers, on how a ‘typical’ Wednesday has played out.
This is alongside a concerning report of information that has been shared of suspected firearms at an address in Syke. With each incident and report, officers have to take it on face value due to threat, risk and harm posed – this hits all the warning markers and they can’t ignore it. After discussions with CID detectives upstairs it is decided they need to search the property.
Seven response officers go along with a larger co-ordinated response, later uncovering a number of weapons and ammunition that were seized as evidence. At the time it couldn’t be confirmed if they were viable, but regardless of that they were acting on concerns from the community and illustrated why a response officer always puts themselves in the face of danger, every time.
With this in mind, a number of her officers remain at the scene of the firearm search, as Inspector Bennett begins to hand over to the next shift, no doubt meaning they will work over their expected shift time before heading home to their loved ones.
They will then relish the challenge of doing it all again the next day, bearing in mind that no two days are the same in response.
Summing up her role perfectly, PC Tonge said; "I love working on A-relief as part of such a special and tight-knit team, the job is unique and I never know really what I will be attending or when.
"I enjoy meeting a variety of people and helping keep members of the public safe. You constantly learn on the job and there's so many different opportunities for different teams in the future."
GMP’s new Response Policing Model was launched across the force in September 2023 and sees each district having both a dedicated Response Team to respond timely to incidents and a dedicated Investigations Team to improve service and outcomes to victims of crime.
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