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Rob King

Life after the Job: Rob King

In the latest in our regular series, Cliff Caswell talks to Rob King about his police career and transition to the private sector.

Life after the Job: Rob King

It was an era of souring industrial relations, political change and huge social upheaval - and those on the front line policing in the 1980s were at the sharp end of the consequences.

Young officers such as Rob King who joined the Job in the early part of the decade faced riots in cities across the country matched with a terrifying threat from Irish dissident Republicanism. 

From Toxteth in Liverpool to Brixton in south London, police were pressed to breaking point as a seething anger spilled into the worst disorder seen for a generation. Elsewhere the Provisional IRA ruthlessly directed attacks at targets including the Harrods department store in London and Hyde Park in London with significant loss of life.

Then, in 1984, a bitter wrangle between the government and the National Union of Mineworkers ended in industrial action. As trouble erupted on the picket lines of the UK's collieries, a huge mutual aid mobilisation was mounted and officers were ordered to keep the peace.

"I remember going up to Nottinghamshire several times during the strike when I was an officer in the Met and coming back with my shirts thick with coal dust," recalled former sergeant Rob, who had joined the Metropolitan Police only four years earlier.

"I don't think you have experience a public order situation on the magnitude we saw and not be scared - anyone that says anything to the contrary is not telling the truth. We were really short of kit too - we just had our helmets and often a shield between two.

"But in that experience I learned a lot of skills that came with me to Civvy Street. You learn quickly that you have to trust and depend on the man next to you."

Experience counts

By all accounts, Rob's experience with Met - during which he served in both uniformed and investigation roles - set him up well for a later foray into corporate security, which has taken him into a variety of senior roles around the world.

His latest position with the Post Office is the culmination of a passion for law enforcement that began while he was studying for his A-Levels at Giggleswick School in Settle, North Yorkshire.

"At that time - in 1981 - I considered joining the Army as an officer, but I decided that the culture would be similar to the boarding school where I had studied," Rob said with a smile. "But I still wanted adventure and thought about the police instead - I applied, and on August 3 that year I found myself training in Hendon.

"I had a huge sense of excitement about the career and being in the city - there were a lot of ex-military people too. But although it was a busy time in terms of public order I soon became known as 'no riot Rob' because whenever trouble started I was always on leave.

"I had been posted to Vine Street - best known as being a square in the board game Monopoly - after completing 12 weeks at Hendon. And at 16 weeks the country boy that had come to London from Yorkshire was busy directing traffic in Piccadilly Circus."

Rob admitted that the early months in the Job had been something of a culture shock, but said the close camaraderie and friendships forged had been a high point. His early years were not short of action either - the calls he attended included tackling a robber armed with a shotgun and taking part in an action to weed out corrupt detectives.

"I also vividly remember the Libyan Embassy siege following the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher - we knew her as my wife was also an officer and was on the same relief. Her death hit us particularly hard and it had a massive impact on the force."

Rob was later promoted to sergeant, where he served in Fulham and saw the rawest end of the football violence that had dogged the beautiful game during throughout the 1980s. He was also involved in strategic planning as a skipper with the Territorial Support Group as well as leading teams on surveillance operations.

However, a later incident was to skew the path of his career completely. As the Provisional IRA continued to mount its campaign on the UK mainland in April 1993, Rob found himself close to the Bishopsgate bomb in London when the huge device exploded.

"The area had already been cordoned off but when the bomb blew my ears were ringing," he said. "I thought nothing of it at first, but I later learned that I had sustained quite significant hearing damage, and on operations I was finding communications difficult."

Medical issues

Unable to continue in the front line environment, the latter part of Rob's career saw him serve as a detective in the Complaints Investigation Bureau - which is now the Directorate of Professional Standards - before he took the decision to leave.

"I'd had a fantastic time in the Job but the hearing loss had become a significant issue," he recalled. "I had been in the Met for 19 plus years and now I was walking away but I was fortunate enough to become a racing intelligence officer at the Jockey Club.

"It was important for me to continue in an environment with which I was familiar. I had left school and come into the police where there was great banter and I did not know anything else.

"I was fortunate enough that the head of security at the club made an approach and asked if I knew anyone in the Met who was about to retire - before long I was working for them and was involved in two years of undercover work to detect corruption in horseracing."

Rob ultimately spent seven years working with the organisation, overseeing various operations, before moving to bookmaker William Hill as a retail security manager. There he was involved in work for the firm both in the UK and the Middle East.

He was been with his current role as head of security operations at the Post Office for nearly two years, overseeing the organisation's 11,500 branches throughout the UK and liaising with Police Service colleagues to counter fraudulent activity.

Having been out of the Job for some 14 years, Rob said it had been a pleasure to continue his career in the security and investigation sectors - but suggested that colleagues considering making the break from the police should ensure they were fully prepared.

"We can have a tendency to get institutionalised in the Job, and you cannot keep a rigid approach to doing things when you leave," he said. "The modern security environment is fast flowing so you need to adapt - and you need to approach potential employers with humility.

"However, you also tend to find people still tend to get seduced by the police rank you attained, even though there are a huge range of skills a more junior officer can give. It is good if you can do some accredited industry training - a course of 12 months of so can give you the gravitas you need as you enter the sector."

This advice has certainly served Rob well. With a wealth of experience in policing matched with an enviable track record in the corporate sector, his career is continuing to go from strength-to-strength. Life after the job, it seems, is abundant with opportunity.

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