There is an assumption that police officers don’t need many academic qualifications but the RGP’s Chief Inspector Mark Wyan seems to be an exception. So far, he has gained a First Class BSc Degree in Psychology and Criminology, a Graduate Diploma in Law (Distinction) and, in 2018, he passed (at ‘Outstanding’) the Bar Professional Training Course enabling him to be called to the Bar in UK. But how does the RGP make use of an officer with all these qualifications?
A Yorkshireman by birth, Mark moved to Gibraltar to be with his then girlfriend and, having studied Criminology at university, it seemed a natural progression for him to join the RGP at the first opportunity. ‘I wanted to put some of the theory into practice but, at the same time, I wanted a career that was fulfilling and rewarding,’ he said.
Even on his Basic Training course (where, not surprisingly, he won the prize for Best Academic Recruit) he became fascinated by Criminal Law – a fascination which has remained with him throughout his career. ‘The good thing about the police is that you’ll find a fit somewhere. If you have talents, the police will find a use for them and you will find yourself in an area of policing that suits you and suits the police.’ said Mark. ‘It’s also an organisation that welcomes diversity, in all its forms.’ Mark admits that he is something of an academic policeman, rather than ‘an officer who batters down doors.’ It was in basic training that he found a love for Criminal Law. ‘I knew little about it before, but I was soon fascinated by the subject and I got a real passion for it – and that passion has never left me. And that ultimately led to me taking a Law degree.’
As a Constable he did the mandatory stint in a Response team, as well as working in Financial Crime and in a Neighbourhood Police Team. However, Mark was in the Training Wing when the groundbreaking Criminal Procedure And Evidence Act 2011 and the new Crimes Act both came into force.
“This allowed me to get my teeth into subjects that I really enjoyed so, when this new, more complicated legislation came in, I was a part of the training team. I was allowed to make significant contributions to the development of our new systems and ideas. It also led to me wanting to do a Law Conversion Degree in my own time – although the RGP were very supportive. And this, in due course, led to me being called to the Bar in 2018.
Indeed, throughout his career, the RGP have made full use of a man who enjoys thinking outside the box and who gets a kick from initiating new systems. When asked for the highlight of his career, he finds it difficult to give a direct answer. ‘I can’t think of a single obvious highlight but I am proud that some systems that I improved are now in everyday use and that have been able to improve procedures for our officers and the services that we provide to the public. I am really proud of the training methods that I have instigated and in the implementation of the new styles of training. I like to think that my work has made for cultural changes in the police.
“But if you pin me down to remembering a single moment, I can remember the night that the MV Fedra ran aground and smashed against the rocks at Europa. As I got off a flight from UK, I was told to get straight down to Europa immediately. Within minutes of arriving at the airport, I was part of the team pulling on ropes to help save sailors’ lives.”
We asked him what had changed during his time in the RGP. “When I joined, it had largely moved away from being a militaristic style of organisation but I could still see elements of it in our work. But in my 19 year career, I’ve seen huge changes in what the expectations of a police officer are. Officers are now expected to be far more flexible, and to have a wide range of skills in order to better understand elements of society that we weren’t expected to understand when I joined. For instance, today’s officers need to be part psychologists, part Counsellors and part Social Workers. Also, officers need to be accountable for their actions and these actions need to be recorded in a transparent way so that defence council can properly look at the decisions that were taken. So there are pressures on today’s young officers which simply were not there when I joined.
“I would say that we now need more capable officers; officers who can think on their feet rather than just follow the rule book. As a result, they need to be more flexible in approach and need to apply themselves to a situation – every situation is different – and they have to have the ability to think their way through a problem – often in a very short time frame. When rationalising those decisions they need to follow the law, the procedures that we have in place and the lessons from their training and, only then, to come to the best outcome. They need to think their way through problems. In addition, every officer now needs to have leadership qualities – when dealing with a tricky situation we want to encourage people to do the right thing rather than order them to do it.
“The RGP now looks for people who have ideas and who are looking to improve the service. We are far more receptive of ideas of how to improve the organisation from within. We encourage people to come forward with their own initiatives and that feedback now gets responses. The Commissioner is very keen to develop this aspect of the organisation.
“Of course, today’s Gibraltar is a very different place to the one that I knew when I first joined. Since then, our community has developed as a financial centre and we have developed culturally. Today, officers are dealing with many young people who have been to university. They are well educated and confident members of society. They know what they are entitled to and so we have to know exactly what actions we have in our armoury in order to do our job properly.
“It is great to see how Gibraltar has really grown in the last 20 years and we in the police have had to respond accordingly and it has been great to have been a part of that.
“As for low points, I’m sure there have been some but I can’t remember any particular moment. There are always times in the police when you will struggle because of pressure of work and the pressure of family life. The work of a police officer on shift can be difficult. It is always difficult to balance family life with the shift work. Often we need to finish a job to meet a tight deadline so this brings extra pressure on family life. My children have grown up to understand the workload of a police officer and I have always tried to make time for my family.
“I do feel the need to unwind and I do this by walking to the top of the Rock every weekend and I enjoy swimming which helps me to relax – and I find that this relaxation is becoming more and more important. I need to de-stress and clear my mind. There is now a recognition by the force that mental welfare is important and that we need to give each other support. We try to make sure that all our officers are looked after because this job can be tough.
“In today’s RGP there are a wide range of initiatives – such as the mental health and wellbeing programmes and the Women in Policing forum - so it’s a police force that is rapidly modernising and developing and it is exciting to be a part of it.
“My current job is head of Corporate Services and my main role is to implement the recommendations made in the latest report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. Every month I provide the Command Team with an update in such areas as ensuring that our Code of Ethics is implemented though our Policies, Procedures and Training, Implementing a Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and Improving our Domestic Abuse Policies and Responses. In short, my job is to improve all our internal and external procedures.
“I enjoy having a say in what is going on and my present role allows me to do exactly that. But, looking back, I feel that, throughout my entire career, the RGP has given me just that voice.”