Gwent Police Federation’s longest-serving workplace representative says he enjoys the role as much today as he did when he first started six-and-a-half years ago.
Matthew O’Brien became a rep in August 2015 and has completed the Federation’s initial reps’ course plus misconduct and post-incident procedures (PIP) training.
He said the most challenging aspect of the role was also one of the most rewarding: helping members when they are at their lowest point and helping them resolve their issues and get them back on track.
He has provided invaluable support to colleagues over the years and said he still gets the greatest satisfaction working on misconduct cases and representing members throughout what is often a very difficult and stressful process.
Matthew said: “I have helped our members in many ways including, but not limited to, general advice around the regulations, representation in misconduct matters including interviews and meetings, completing fairness at work applications, representation in sickness meetings and assistance in completing flexible working applications.
“I have always had strong beliefs in representing my colleagues to the best of my ability and ensuring that Police Regulations are complied with and officers are not disadvantaged.
“I bring experience to the role not only being an officer for more than 20 years but currently being the longest serving workplace rep within Gwent Police.
“There is not much that I haven’t seen in my time as a cop or as a Fed rep! I will always be honest with members and I bring a determination to do my best for them.
“I enjoy being a rep now just as much as I did when I started back in 2015. I enjoy interacting with the members and upskilling them in their rights under the regulations.”
Matthew’s career with Gwent Police stretches back to July 2000 when he joined the Force and was initially posted to Ystrad Mynach in uniformed response after completing his training at the national police training centre in Cwmbran.
He joined the CID in 2006 and served with Bedwas CID, Blackwood CID and the Force-wide Serious Violent Crime Team before being posted to Newport CID in 2012.
He stayed there until 2018 when he was promoted to sergeant and returned to uniformed response policing. He is now based at Maindee in the Newport East response team.
Matthew said he chose a career in policing because he wanted to help people but also felt the Force offered relative job security compared with other occupations.
But he is no doubt that the police service faces some tough challenges ahead.
He said: “Policing is the one stop shop for everything and we don’t have the capacity to deal with all of society’s issues.
“The vast majority of calls to the police are not crime related and the service ends up propping up other public services such as the ambulance services or mental health teams due to issues they have with resourcing.”
Matthew said pay and conditions and pensions were still among the biggest challenges faced by the Police Federation.
He said the organisation needed to re-engage with officers over previous decisions involving the pensions issue which he believes has caused a schism within the membership which needs to be resolved so everyone can move forward as a united front, especially around pay and conditions.
And Matthew’s advice for new officers just joining the Force? Never stop asking questions.
He said: “There is no such thing as stupid question. If you don’t know, ask.
“Just because you are new in service doesn’t mean you don’t have the right solution to a problem, if a colleague has more service it doesn’t always mean they have the right answer.”