This week Traffic Officer Paul Davies talks about his 24-year-career in the Royal Gibraltar Police
“I’m still enjoying my job, I’m here because I want to be here. I like it here.”
Meet PC 172 Paul Davies, who, at the age of 56, is currently the Royal Gibraltar Police’s oldest serving officer.
The dad of three (and one dog) has twice extended his service past the normal retirement age and has now clocked just over 31 years as a police officer in both the RGP and the Gibraltar Defence Police.
Asked when he plans to hand in the badge, he puts it simply: “I have no plans to retire just yet.”
Those who have met Paul will note his accent. So where exactly is he from?
Well, Paul’s Welsh dad was in the Royal Air Force and met his Gibraltarian wife when he was stationed in Gibraltar.
Paul was born in Norfolk in 1964 and the family moved back to Gibraltar when he was two and stayed here until he was 10.
They then moved to Cardiff until he was 16, with Paul going on to study boat building in Chatham (Kent) and Plymouth (Devon), before moving back to Gibraltar at the age of 21.
After a few years working as a welder for the Rock’s Public Works Department (PWD), Paul joined what is now called the Gibraltar Defence Police in 1990 at the age of 26.
But what were his reasons for wanting to become a police officer?
He answered: “I’ve always wanted to help people when they’ve been in predicaments and I believe that the basis of policing lies there. You’re there to help people. If you arrest someone, you’re removing a danger and allowing the rest of the public to be able to carry on their lives as they should be.”
Paul did seven years with the GDP, with two attachments to the RGP during the public disorder of July 1995, after police seized around 50 inflatable boats suspected of smuggling contraband.
Explaining his memories of the time, he said: “We spent three nights sleeping in the court yard on the floor at New Mole House – being fed on corned beef hash, which was coming from the Gibraltar Regiment.
“The disturbances calmed down very, very quickly, the police were given a lot of support by the general public and the bad guys were scared of us. If we jumped out of the van, they ran. They would throw stones at us from a distance, but up close they didn’t have the nerve.
“It was scary and hair-raising stuff. But at the time being a younger man, you don’t see as much danger.”
Then in January 1997, the opportunity arose for Paul to join the RGP.
Asked what policing was like back then, he said: “Life was much simpler. We worked under ‘Judges’ Rules’. Now there is more paperwork, way more bureaucracy and everything is scrutinised more.”
However, some changes have been for the better, Paul said Body Worn Cameras are a ‘godsend’.
As for the highlights of his career, a few sprang to mind, including being awarded the Constable of the Year award in 2011.
But Paul will always remember escorting Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex on his police motorcycle, when they came for a Royal visit in 2012.
He also notes the 175th anniversary of the RGP in June 2005, when Paul was proud to join his colleagues as they marched down Main Street.
And one memory that brought a smile to his face, happened around 17 years ago.
“I was at Morison’s petrol station with my wife and kids to fill up the car,” he explained.
“I saw a security guard running after some bloke who had been shoplifting. I put the nozzle back in, shot after him and rugby tackled him to the floor. I then put him in an arm lock and basically waited for the police van to arrive. As I’m waiting, I hear clapping and look over to the McDonald’s roundabout and there’s my wife and two children shouting my name and clapping for me.
“I felt quite proud of that.”
Paul, added that another fond memory involved locking up a drug addict.
He explained: “After getting a conviction, he came out clean and hasn’t touched drugs since. And that was very gratifying to see that the system had worked.”
During this long career, the keen cyclist and Welsh rugby fan has been a shift officer, in the marine section and the traffic department — the latter for the past 23 years, where he recalls being ‘voluntold’ to apply.
Talking about the negative aspects of being a police officer, he explained how it pains him that the police are unable to resolve social issues in society.
He explained: “There are certain members of society who have come from bad backgrounds and haven't had a good upbringing. And it makes you think, they just don’t stand a chance. They need more support.”
Another issue of policing in Gibraltar is the close knit society.
He recalled: “The intimacy of our society here, where everyone knows each other, means it can be difficult dealing with death or serious incidents. I was one of the first officers on the scene to the death of Brian Navarro and I used to work with his father in PWD — that’s the negative aspect of policing in Gibraltar.”
As for embarrassing moments in his career, Paul added that he had fallen out of a RHIB years ago in the middle of the night while on a chase at sea.
Over the years Paul has had his tyres slashed and been threatened that he would be beaten up in Spain.
He said: “I bumped into the guy in Spain who threatened me shortly after. I went up to his car and knocked on his window and he literally wet himself.”
But as Paul approaches retirement, he reflects that it won’t change his attitude to life much.
He explained: “I think that if you retire and you’ve been a police officer, you will always be a police officer. This is a vocation, it’s not a job. And if you don’t feel that it’s a vocation, you shouldn’t be here.”
As for how he plans to spend his eventual retirement, he has some exciting plans.
He smiled and added: “Travel restrictions aside, I would love to buy a mobile home to travel. I need to go back to Wales. I need to go to Scotland as I’ve never been there. And I need to go to Rome. Those are on my bucket list. Obviously with a bicycle or two attached to the back.”