A former Cramlington police officer is still helping colleagues five years after retiring.
Graeme Thompson was just 20 years old when he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined Northumbria Police as a police constable, initially serving South Tyneside in 1982.
Over the next 30 years, he worked as a response officer in Cramlington, South Tyneside and Hebburn, before joining the training department.
The 59-year-old retired in 2012, but after a year away filled in an application to become a call handler and is now working in the communications centre in Ponteland, passing on his experience to his colleagues.
Graeme said: “Sometimes I think to myself ‘where has the time gone to?’.
“I joined when I was 20 years old and now I am on the wrong side of 55, but if I could do it all again I would.
“I was in the retail trade, but my father had been in the police force and family friends were in the police force so it seemed like the natural thing to do.
“Thirty years down the line I have done my service. I have seen some nice things, I have seen some bad things and I have dealt with some horrible things.
“I don’t do golf and so when this job came up I decided to apply, rather than just sit back during my retirement. I get a buzz from doing it and I enjoy it.”
Graeme said that one of the most challenging aspects of working as a call handler is keeping vulnerable people on the phone.
He has answered tens of thousands of calls in the last five years and the most important thing for him is to “stay calm and keep control of the situation”.
“It can be very difficult when you get someone on the line who is very distressed, very upset, they could be very suicidal and speaking to you with a knife to their throat,” said Graeme.
“When I have calls like that I try to do my best to stay calm and keep control of the situation, and keep control of the caller.
“You don’t want to let them get off the line, you want to keep them talking so that you can get the officers there so they can handle the situation.
“It can be demanding to ask those pertinent questions when somebody is in such distress at the end of the phone, but all we can do is deal with those jobs professionally.
“Everyone does their best because you want an outcome where you can ultimately keep that person safe, which is what it is all about.
“I am proud of those successes. When you have stopped someone breaking into someone’s house, or if you have stopped someone from committing suicide, then it does make you feel proud.”