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Interview: the policing priest

Rob Findlow, a Greater Manchester Police Inspector who is also an ordained Anglican Priest, tells Police Oracle the two jobs are not as different as you might think.
Published - 15/05/2020 By - Chloe Livadeas

What did you become first, an officer or a priest?

I have been a police officer for nearly 30 years. I experienced a calling to Ministry around the 20 year mark. Although I am sure the seeds had been sown much earlier.

Are there any similarities between the two roles?

I often get a surprised look when I say what my roles are. At first glance the two roles seem to be poles apart. And yet my experience has shown me, what I have always felt deep down, that there is much that make the two roles complement each other.

I have always had a sense of vocation to service, which I have been able to achieve through my police work. In that regard it does not seem to be a huge jump at all to continue that sense of vocation of service into Ministry life. I come from a generation of police officers who joined when there was still talk in the station about police being as much a vocation as well as a ‘job’.

Both areas of work involve dealing with people, and more specifically people’s lives. Often people come to us in both roles having experienced a trauma, with a sense of hurt, or even feeling broken – they’ve been burgled, assaulted, experienced a bereavement, having been told they are terminally ill.

In either role we would never expect to ‘fix’ everything, but we would find ourselves ‘walking alongside’ someone as they travel this stage in their life’s path. For a time people have a need to let us into their lives, and share the journey their experience is taking them on.

When I was at the Police College my trainers – who were very old school – told the class ‘You are paid to be nosey’. And that is very true. It never fails to surprise me what people are willing to share with you about their personal life, both as a police officer and a Priest. In both roles I have found myself asking about people’s lives in a way I would never be able to do outside of those roles. I don’t think in either role we should ever underestimate the huge privilege we are given when people open their lives to us.

Is it ever useful to apply your knowledge and status as a priest to your police work?

Having been a police officer for many years before becoming a Priest I have learned to carry any ‘authority’ carefully. Safeguarding of the vulnerable is at the forefront of all police work now, and is rapidly becoming so within the Church. I see it as a vitally important area where my experience of policing has and will support my work as a Priest in getting it right. If a person cannot turn to a police officer or a priest in all confidence when they are at their most vulnerable, then to whom can they turn?

Going back to my earlier point about having the privilege of being let into people’s lives when they are at their most vulnerable, both roles require trust if the two roles are to be performed successfully. I think it is fair to say the reputations of both vocations have taken a hammering in that regard. I’d like to think I have and will play my part to bring back that trust.

One of the obvious cross overs between the roles is having the ability to ‘read a person’. Nowadays in the police there is much talk of ‘emotional intelligence’ which is in effect being able to read someone and having some compassion for them. Priests have been practicing this for centuries!

Someone once said that a Priest and a police officer can spot a liar a mile away. I don’t think that is any secret training we get, but it is having an almost instinctive sense of reading people, although you learn a lot about people’s behaviour along the way. So I think there is quite a bit of cross pollination between the roles.

What do your colleagues in the force think about the fact you are also a priest?

I am always amused when I am in my ‘dog collar’ that someone will

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