The life of Ryan

Ryan Jones, a PCSO from Wales, was nominated for a prestigious award for helping a victim of bullying. He’s a public service champion and this is his story

As he talks about life as a Police Community Support Officer, Ryan Jones is full of positivity and chuckles frequently. He claims he’s never really had bad experiences with the way the public have treated him, although he then adds: “The only issue I’ve had is someone coming at me with a knife.”

Even as he recounts this event, humour is never far away. “Luckily this chap was inside a house and, as he was charging towards us with this massive kitchen knife, he couldn’t, in his rage, work out how to undo the baby gate – so he couldn’t get through. Saved by a baby gate! At the time it was quite serious, but I look back on it and I laugh.”

Delve a bit deeper though, and Ryan does become more serious about the risks of his job. His uniform includes body armour and he admits that, in the current climate, he is never without it. “Obviously with things that are going on – Westminster, Paris [where two policemen were killed in terror attacks] – uniforms are targets.”

Ryan, who was just 18 when he applied to become a PCSO, has seen an increase in threat levels towards the police service during his 10 years in the job. His force, Dyfed-Powys, covers a land mass of over half of Wales and includes many remote, rural communities. As he says himself: “We’re in the middle of nowhere and you’d like to think it wouldn’t happen here. But my personal view is – that’s the reason why it would happen. These groups are targeting uniformed personal because it’s a sign of authority. So, for me, it’s always in the back of my mind.”

While threat levels have increased, budgets have decreased thanks to austerity measures. “When I first started, there wasn’t an issue. But a couple of years in, the budgets were cut. We streamlined roles within the police service. Obviously workloads increase, and then levels of stress and anxiety. I’m a Rep as well you see, so I’ve seen first hand the results.”

However Ryan knows that PCSOs in his force are valued. In fact, while PCSO posts have been drastically reduced across England since 2011, the Welsh Assembly Government has increased them in the four Welsh forces. So Ryan hasn’t been worried about losing his job, although he does have concerns for the longer term. “Two, three years down the line we don’t know what’s going to happen. But I don’t see the point of dwelling on that.”

So what does Ryan have to deal with now? He says he doesn’t have a typical day. He sees his role as working with the community’s concerns and needs, covering anything from “giving a group talk about crime prevention to dealing with with issues in the town like underage drinkers. You do what you can within your remit of powers to help the community and take things forward.”

But it’s clear Ryan loves his job overall. “It doesn’t matter how small anything is, or how trivial, as long as I know I’ve helped somebody and made a difference to their life that day, I’m quite happy.”

“It doesn’t matter how small anything is, or how trivial, as long as I know I’ve helped somebody and made a difference to their life that day, I’m quite happy.”

It’s this ability to make a difference that led to Ryan being nominated for an award after helping a girl who was being bullied at school. The award, newly launched in 2017 by Dyfed-Powys Police, celebrates good work carried out by police staff and recognises their commitment to the communities they serve. All nominees are put forward and voted for by the public. It speaks volumes that although it was almost seven years ago that Ryan helped the schoolgirl, her mother – who was the one who nominated Ryan – still thought of him when she became aware of the award earlier this year.

Ryan says he was “completely gobsmacked” when he received a congratulatory email explaining he was one of around 40 nominations.

“When I spoke to the mother, she said ‘I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to actually say anything, but you made a real difference to our lives.’.”

“Her daughter was about 13 at the time. She was having major issues with bullying and was refusing to go to school. She was probably at one of the lowest places I’ve seen a person who’s suffering bullying at school. We see it in the media all the time, that in some cases it ends up with teenagers committing suicide.”

Ryan initially visited the girl and her family to discuss what was happening at school and on the bus. He then got the school to take a more proactive approach towards the problem. He could have left things there, but he went the extra mile – and this is why, he believes, the girl’s mother nominated him. One day, when he was passing, he called in again and could see the girl was struggling with her self esteem and confidence, so he decided it was worth sharing his own personal experience of being bullied. “I did struggle myself with bullying at school. I used to have to see a child psychologist. But obviously I’ve managed to get on with my life, and I must be doing alright – I’m doing this job, I’m married with three daughters. And that was my point that I was making to her; that things will get better but you’ve got to change the direction you want them to get better in.”

“She’s 20 this year. She’s still suffering the effects of the aftermath, but she’s doing well for herself. She’s going off, she’s getting married, she’s moving to Liverpool, she’s got a job.”

“You know, the way the nomination was written, if I hadn’t had done what I had done, she may not be here now. To be told something like that, to be told you are appreciated for what you’re trying to do – what more can I ask for?”

Ryan admits he has been overwhelmed by the reaction to his nomination. “It went viral, it got shared online everywhere, all over Facebook, all over Twitter, in all the local papers. People have been coming up to me in the street, congratulating me, telling me what a good job I’m doing and things like this, and I don’t usually get that. Internally it’s nice to be appreciated, but I think the important factor is that public perception is ‘wow, these officers are doing a good job’. These last couple of months have been quite a good moral lifter!”

As one of five finalists for the award, Ryan attended a special ceremony and although he didn’t win on the day, he doesn’t feel disappointed. “I’ve already won as far as I’m concerned because everybody knows what I’ve done. They appreciate it and they thank me.”