‘Behind the Badge’: Meet Highbury East’s neighbourhood officer
- Credit: Met Police
Highbury East neighbourhoods officer Keisha Shokunbi values her job for the impact she can make in the community.
“There aren’t many people who can say they go to work and make a difference to people’s lives,” said Keisha.
She joined the Met in 2007 when she fancied a career change after working in customer services.
Initially, she was posted to work on the emergency team responding to 999 calls and dealing with the likes of violent crime, domestic abuse and sudden deaths.
Keisha is now a neighbourhoods officer, but still faces similar incidents on the street.
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“I can't say I've ever feared for my life," she said.
"I have been in some really nasty, filthy, dirty environments, and some dodgy situations, but I've been quite fortunate in my time in the job. I've never been assaulted. I've never had anyone wave a weapon in my face."
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Once a year officers must complete safety training which simulates scenarios such as dealing with somebody armed with a knife, and refreshing their first aid knowledge, including emergency life support.
Most officers nowadays are issued with a baton and CS spray - a type of tear gas - as standard, and some are equipped with tasers.
“If you want a taser you have to pass a course, and some officers are armed with guns," said Keisha.
"We get a lot of training, but most of the time a lot of your skill is down to how you communicate with people. You need good communication skills.”
Before joining the team in Highbury East a couple of months ago, she was a schools officer in Camden and Islington for four years.
“It kept me on my toes,” she said.
“The primary age group are very easy to work with but once they get to 13 or 14, that's when the issues start arising.
"Sometimes kids start hanging around with the wrong crowd and get themselves into trouble.
"Our job is to keep them on the straight and narrow and divert them from that type of life."
Keisha finds it particularly rewarding to stop a young person becoming involved in violent crime.
“I used to work at a school in Islington and there was a girl who was always getting in trouble,” she said.
"For some reason she stood out to me, because she was always having to do reflection time.
“I used to go and sit with her and I'd say: 'What's the problem? Why are you always getting into trouble?'
"She'd say: 'It wasn't my fault. I wasn't even talking.'
"Sometimes children need someone to listen to them. They're so used to being told off all the time, they need someone to try to understand.
“I had a long chat with her one day and I recommended that she join the police cadets, and one thing led to another and the next thing I knew she had joined.
"She excelled, and it was a great feeling to know I had an impact on that decision."
Keisha added: "Joining the police cadets is a great way to divert children from crime.
"It keeps them busy. It's an after school club like the girl guides, and it's a way to get them off the streets."
Keisha now works in the neighbourhoods team, where she identifies threats and risks to the community by developing an understanding of local issues, safeguarding those identified as vulnerable.
"What's nice about neighbourhoods is when you are covering the ward you get to know all the local shopkeepers, the local residents, and you build relations with them," said Keisha.
She has only been in the post for a couple of months, but she’s already thinking about the next step, and is working towards a sergeant’s exam with a view to ultimately becoming a close protection officer with the royalty and specialist protection command.
"It's a skilled role, but I’ve been in the job for 14 years, and after a while you need change and to push yourself, as otherwise you can get stuck in a rut and things become mundane," she said.
"The skills you can obtain as a close protection officer include driving skills and taser, and they put you on the firearms course so you get ballistic training and emergency life support.
"All the courses are amazing and will help to develop me as an officer and as a person. Otherwise you won't grow if you don’t ever push yourself."