‘It is immensely special to me and I feel extremely proud’ says Chief Inspector John Cole who was recently given the Chief Constable’s Lifetime Achievement Award following 30 years of policing. 

Staffordshire Police Federation member John received recognition at this year’s Force Awards, having dedicated three decades to the job and working tirelessly to create training packages to support his colleagues.

Since winning the award, the 52-year-old has reflected on his varied career, admitting he is proud to have ‘retained being me from the moment I started the job, until today.’

“I knew I wanted to climb the ranks but I wanted to do it my way and I feel like I’ve done that. I’ve continued being me,” said John.

John joined the police in 1993. He recalls being ‘the baby of the group’, and says that although he ‘struggled in the classroom’, he ‘thrived, out on the streets’.

“It was clear that being out in communities, out on the streets was where I belonged,” he continued.

“But I always wanted to be a leader. I think being a leader is about managing and looking after people, rather than being in charge - and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Over the years, John worked in a variety of roles, alongside many ‘very experienced officers’ who he says, helped teach him ‘the core skills of policing’.

“I’ve worked with some phenomenal people - and it’s usually those people that don’t get the recognition they deserve,”  added John, who is both firearms-trained and a bronze public order commander.

“I call it cop craft and working with so many experienced people definitely helped me learn the art of the job.”

At the age of 30, having passed the necessary exams, John became a sergeant and had his own shift.

“I loved that role,” he said. “My team was made up of officers of all ages, some in their 20s and others, nearer 50. I had to do a lot of work to gain their respect, especially that of the more experienced officers. But we looked after each other, it was a very happy team.”

Over time, John worked within Staffordshire Police’s witness care unit, policy and research unit and has also presented several initiatives to the Home Office. 

“Supporting victims and witnesses at a local level led to a secondment, delivering support at a national level,” explained John.

“And what an incredible experience that was.”

John then returned to neighbourhood policing as a sergeant, a role he said gave him an ‘opportunity to focus on people and their problems and to help make positive change’.

“The thing is, no one ever seems to thank the police,” he said, adding: “There’s always someone who’s not happy. Knowing you’ll always be criticised by someone is challenging.”

More recently John was tasked with collaborating work between the police and fire service in Staffordshire. 

“I was determined to make the formation of Hanley Fire and Police Station happen and I think it’s fair to say it’s been really successful," he explained.

He was then seconded as head of fleet at the joint emergency transport services and is currently taking a month’s break from the Force before heading back to work at the end of January.

“I’m proud as punch to be a police officer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a hard job and not every day goes well but as long as the demand is there, I will work. I’m not ready to leave work yet,” John said, ending: “But I now want to use my experience and knowledge to help others.”