The knack How to walk the beat

"Good boots are a necessity - you're on your feet for the best part of your shift. Check the weather forecasts and make sure you've got appropriate clothes for the time of day. The early hours can get really cold and it's no good having your thermals at home when you're freezing your parts off on the street.

If you're on a beat that you don't know very well, note down the names of the roads as you turn into them. There's nothing more embarrassing than calling up for assistance on the radio and not being able to tell them where you are. Even if the geography of your beat is always the same, what's going to happen is completely unpredictable. Dull it isn't, and you've got to be able to adapt to the different situations you come across. After a while you develop a nose for the out-of-the-ordinary.

You do get some abuse from people who don't like the police. One way to deal with it is to talk to them and try to use a bit of humour, and maybe you'll change their opinion. But sometimes they're just going to be anti, and you've got to deal with it the best you can. Talk to people. Those you see regularly, like cafe owners and stallholders, can provide good 'tea-holes', places where you're liable to get a cup of tea. These can be a godsend, and not just for the tea. When you sit down for a brew with someone, that's when you start to get information about what's going on locally. In fact, there's an old saying in the Met that 'a good policeman never gets wet', but I'm sure that means on the outside, not the inside." Interview by Fiona McClymont

Keith Lambert is a relief officer at Charing Cross police station

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