Leaving Police Work for UK Parliament

During this episode, Simon Hankins talks about his Police career and how despite loving his role as Temporary Inspector in the Force Control Room, he got increasingly frustrated with the lack of resilience of other services and the lack of progression in terms of a promotion. After 24 years in the police force, Simon talks about the impact on his family, and how suddenly new roles and opportunities came into his life. Simon talks in-depth about what it's like leaving police work for the UK Parliament. Simon was on duty during the 2017 UK Parliamentary terrorist attacks, when PC Keith Palmer died. All of this, and more is discussed in this informational podcast. Simon left the police force, and never looked back. Be sure to keep reading, or listen to the full podcast episode here. 

Leaving Police Work for UK Parliament after 24 Years of Service

In this episode, Simon talks about the catalysts and why he left the police force. Simon left the police force without qualifications but talks about the importance of continuous development. Now, Simon is employed by the House of Commons, and is the UK parliament Head of Security Operations. He joined the Police in 1992. Then, fInally in 2016, he said “something needs to change”. Just like that, he walked away from a police career.

"I was always shift work for 24 years, always operational, front line policing that's what I enjoyed".

Leaving the Police Force for Change

Change was done to him, and he had no say. Instead of moaning and groaning, he wanted a change too. During his career with the police force, he got into search teams and liaison work. Then again, he was hungry for the next step. Simon was always looking for more advancement. Sound familiar? He put a lot of energy getting his Sergeant promotion. Then, quickly moved into the force control room as temporary Inspector. Simon liked being in the control room, particularly for that risk based decision making, but Simon started to get disgruntled and disillusioned. He started to think about his future and whether he needed to broaden his horizons.

2 Different Catalysts for Leaving the Police Force 

  1. Frustration with career development and progression. The promotion process was based on if you fit into certain cliques. And, Simon wasn't into the cliques and games. He had seen people making poor decisions regarding advancement and progression. He knew he was doing a good job, but wasn't getting the promotions he deserved.
  2. But alongside wanting to give something back, he felt constrained in the control room with what he could do. He joined the Police to help fight crime and help victims of crime, however, with all the cut backs and impact on Policing and other Services, he was just struggling to actually achieve that.

The Police Force Impacted His Work-Life Balance

There were lots of frustrations professionally, and personally. It impacted his work life balance and his family life. His wife, also a serving officer, made the decision to take a career break. Simon supported her as she left the police force and went back to University to become a school teacher. Watching her transition was interesting as she was tired of policing and the demands the job entails. All of a sudden, Simon could see a spark that grew back into her life. It was amazing, and it looked great. Simon felt, that he too should be doing something different. She sat him down one day and said, “Something has to change. This job and the stress will kill you. You are not fun to be around. Me and the kids see this”. Then, Simon realised he had to make serious changes.

Career Change After 24 Years in the Police Force

Simon started to actively look at what else was out there. He always thought he would serve 30 year in the Police force, withdraw his pension to play golf and chill out. Simon didn't think he would change his career after 24 years. But that was the realisation, he wanted to see what else was out there. Almost instantly, a switch went in his brain. 

Journey of Self Discovery

Policing was all he knew his whole adult life. We always went with what we know; loss of security was on his mind, but, he wanted more than that. It was all very vague, but it started a journey of self discovery. He saw his wife, go out and get degrees so Simon too wanted to get back to education, having left school at 16, without qualifications. 

Left the Police Force and Joined the UK Parliament

At first, Simon signed for night school courses. He started looking at university courses, but, was still unsure where it would go. At that time, he started having fears, Then, he  was approached by a police officer who had left the force. She said there was a job coming up at the UK parliament and Simon was sent the job application. It was a great position as operations manager within the UK Parliament. It looked like an exciting job with great pay and that was important. He was shifting towards a brand new career and it was very exciting.

What did Simon do to his CV to match the role description? What key things did Simon do to get ready for the interview?

The job description had a lot of criteria that would be tested in the interview and he had to run through all the criteria. Despite the lack of academic qualifications behind him, he did have the necessary experience but he didn't have a CV. However it transpired that the House of Commons role didn't require a CV, just an application form that is heavily evidence based. Simon spent a week on the application form, just to make sure the words were correct, submitted it, and was delighted to get an interview.

But, before the interview… 

Hire a Coach

Simon invested In a coach to help with having more confidence. The coach put questions together based on the criteria from the job application. Then, they would test him and gave feedback. Simon suggests,

"Do your prep, have the practice mock boards, and get a coach. The experience was invaluable"

Interview at The Palace of Westminster

Simon was interviewed by a board, which was very intimidating. It was his very first time in The Palace of Westminster. When Simon saw the iconic Westminster palace, it was suddenly very serious. Simon spent his career in rural UK, now he was in London, a very dramatic change. The interview went really well as Simon felt confident. The process actually felt easier than a police board review. His level of preparation, by hiring the coach, made Simon feel confident! After a few hours, he got a call and walked into The Palace of Westminster and got the job offer. He was stunned. Then, he went back to this family and discussed the position.

Preparation is Key to Success

"The investment in yourself to do your research, getting a coach, and making sure you're in the right place was invaluable. You can't walk into a job without doing the work first".

According to Simon, "You can use your experiences from the police force, and adapt them to new jobs". Going to college, getting the coach, and doing a lot of research about parliament, helped Simon tremendously. The homework is so important so make you feel confident. He didn't have pressure or expectations because he prepared so well. 

Out of His Comfort Zone

Policing was all he knew. He was used to the policing family. Simon met his wife in the force and he knew where to go to and who to talk to to get things done. It's only natural that he feared going to a new organisation, plus the impact on his pension. He was fairly confident that he would be fine, however, there were days when he was scared to death. New systems, processes and a working schedule in London. Everything would be so new and so far outside Simon’s comfort zone. Other timeshe would be excited. The chance to learn new skills, meet new people, it was appealing. There was lots of flip flopping going on.

Self Help Books

Since he seemed to struggle to make a decision,  Simon sought out self help books, on how to make decisions. In particular, the book, “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. He read the book in one night and composed an email to accept the job. However he was again having second thoughts and wasn't going to actually send the email. His discussed this with his wife, who promptly reached over his shoulder, clicked 'send' and actually sent the email for him. 

Resigning from the Police Force for UK Parliament.

Simon will never forget how he resigned. It was a Friday, he felt like everyone would think he was absolutely mad, but, he was just so ready for a new challenge. Surprisingly, it was just an online form to resign and took no more than 90 seconds, and then a screen popped up, “Thank you for your resignation”.  Nobody knew it was coming. He went to tell his coworkers, and they were so amazed with what he was doing. Simon wasn't sure when he would leave, and it turns out that with the leave he was owed, he could actually leave that very day! He promptly went off to explain to the Superintendent that that was his last day. However the following day, they were really struggling for control room staff and called Simon to show up for one last shift on that Saturday. It was the longest 12 hours of Simon’s life. He didn't want anything tragic to happen on his watch. Then, he got escorted off the premise, and went off into the sunset. And, just like that Simon left the police force after 24 years of service.

"It was surreal, felt strange but once I got home, it was incredible".

Transitioning to the House of Commons

Simon took over the House of Commons control room, which was great, as he was still working with police officers, so an easy transition. It felt like a gradual shift. His brief was to aid with the separation of police officers and the parliamentary staff who were taking over the roles from the Met Police. Previously he was an operations cop, and now here he was, involved in procurement processes, project management and business change, things he had never done before. He did research into these areas and has since got his project management qualification. The in-house procurement team has also helped him a lot. Within 12 months, he had procured a new command and control system. In addition, Simon brought in more technology for security measures. He has since been promoted and is now the head of security for the entire Parliamentary estate. 

"You Get What You Put In"

It’s a challenging role, and it’s not easy and it’s not easy to leave the Police force, but, the rewards are there. A whole different world opened up. The corporate world expects long hours, pressure, and autonomy comes with that pressure. Lots of responsibility. There are challenges everyday, but no challenge that can't be overcome. Especially, if you do come from policing. According to Simon, “You get out what you put in”. Simon would have never achieved this level of progress if he had stayed in the police force. 

“There is more to life than money. Living in the moment is what life is all about”.

Work-life Balance after Leaving the Police Force

Mostly, it's fantastic. No longer doing shift work, Simon has energy to come home and do things, which is fun. He spends more time with his kids. In addition, he’s fortunate that with parliament, their working hours are family friendly. Simon is no longer missing Christmas' or birthdays. 

“It’s key to spend time with children while I can”

Terrorist Attacks at UK Parliament 

Within a month of landing the new position, PC Keith Palmer was brutally murdered during a terrorist attack. In 2017, Simon was on duty, right underneath Bridge Street when the attack happened. The next thing he heard on the radio was, “there's been an explosion, officer stabbed and shots fired”. He ran to the control room, which was just chaos. It was so tragic and absolutely shocking. The repercussions continue to go on, even to this day. Essentially, it’s very difficult. Parliament is complex, and political. The country must carry on, especially since it’s a tourist attraction. Democracy has to continue. The government wanted to release a quick statement but it was really a difficult time. Every anniversary, we have remembrance services. We still have staff living through PTSD. Despite this, Simon does not regret leaving police work for UK Parliament.

What does the future hold for you, Simon?

He’s enjoying this current position so much as he has autonomy and trust. The current speaker of Parliament, is very close to Simon and they now have a very close ally within parliament. Leaving police work for UK Parliament was the best decision Simon has ever made.

“If you are unsettled, and you think you need a change, don't fear it, just grasp it for what it is. You’ll have to invest in training. The rewards are out there”