Mike Knellar

Police Officer
• Cumbria, England
Mike Knellar - Behind the Uniform

“They’ve seen who we are, that we’re human behind this uniform, and they think ‘we can trust these guys, we can talk to them’”

I moved with my family from London to Cumbria this year and we love it, although the local accents, responding to thefts of tractors, and dealing with sheep and cows in the road took a bit of getting used to. The biggest shock of all?   Coming up here and finding out how many people knew of me from Twitter.

About 3 years ago I decided with Tim Watford, my community policing partner in Tooting, South London, to try something a bit different to get crime prevention messages out locally.  Neither of us had run any social media before but it seemed the obvious route to try, so we looked at what others were doing with public information.  Mostly, it was quite black and white, factual but boring.  We knew for it to work in our community we’d have to do something completely different.

So, one evening, at the end of a shift, we did a sing along, lip sync crime prevention video.  We had fun doing it, so we decided to just put it out there and see what happens.  If it’s not right, someone will soon tell us. Senior management liked it and, most importantly, so did the public, we had over a million views for that one video alone.

Our motivation is the end result, it’s not about ‘look at us, aren’t we funny’.  One of the best things is the intelligence that comes back from the community.  They’ve seen who we are, that we’re human behind this uniform, and they think ‘we can trust these guys, we can talk to them, we can tell them there’s someone dealing drugs down the road.’ 

We’re followed on social media by quite a few of our ‘regular customers’ – people we’ve arrested more than once.  Bizarrely, other Officers tell us that suspects have requested us by name, saying ‘I want to be searched by Knellar & Watford’.  

“One time we closed down a drug house and realised that the graffiti on the wall had our names on it. I said to Tim, that shows we’re doing our job right, annoying the right people”

One time we closed down a drug house and realised that the graffiti on the wall had our names on it. I said to Tim, that shows we’re doing our job right, annoying the right people.  There was only one big problem with it; they’d spelled my name wrong! 

You make friends for life in this job, you look out for each other and become like family.  In fact, Tim is going to be the Best Man at my wedding.  My fiancé, Sam, is a paramedic so when we have a bad day with high stress situations, we both have someone to moan to who understands.  If a shift changes at the last minute, or I have to work on Christmas Day, Sam gets it; our relationship isn’t put under pressure in the way that some are.

Christmas is surreal.  It can be just like a normal day, particularly in a diverse community like Tooting where large numbers of people aren’t celebrating and just getting on as usual.  You can be tucking into your microwave meal, or on your way to break up a fight, when and get sent a pic from the family, hats on, having a beer, dinner on the table – thanks for sharing!

Last New Year’s Eve, I was policing thousands of people in Trafalgar Square with Tim.  This year will be very different, of course – and not just for geographic reasons.  Wherever you are, and even in a pandemic, so many crimes are fuelled by substance misuse.  When people are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they’re not able to control themselves, they become someone else.  In community policing we do follow up visits to see if they’re ok and whether they remember how they were behaving.  They’re usually mortified and can’t remember climbing up a lamp post or fighting someone, it’s not who they are day-to-day.  Like most people, I enjoy a drink, craft ales are my thing, but I do think if we reduced our alcohol intake a little bit, things would be better – certainly from an emergency services perspective.

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Mike in Uniform - Behind the Uniform
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