Fresh Cops picks up a year after the successful first season and could not be more timely. Stop and search figures are going up but the success rate of the searches is down, leaving questions to be answered.
Last week, I spoke to young officers Jake and Philippa. They gave me their input about joining the police, working tirelessly to protect and serve and dealing with discrimination. They also said that this season has a lot more action on the roads!
Last year, Leicestershire Police went above and beyond in recruitment numbers. In 2019, the government set a target for the force to add an additional 297 officers by the start of 2023. They have managed to recruit 340 officers, beating their target and growing the force by 17%.
Leicestershire’s Chief Constable Rob Nixon said: “Our numbers are healthier and our recruitment plan has been successful but we are still facing enormous demand as the population of our area grows.”
The force now has more than 2,300 officers on duty, but a lot of those are new recruits who, despite their eagerness to succeed, need to be trained and prepared for what they could face in the field.
Jake and Philippa are perfect examples of action-hungry new recruits. They have already proved their worth by getting called out to stabbings, cannabis raids and having to conduct CPR under tremendous stress. Jake said: “It’s a great opportunity, lots of running around and high pace, I love it.”But calls to the police in Leicestershire last year exceeded 500,000, so these new recruits need to learn the ropes quickly. As Chief Constable Nixon said: “Our new recruits are up for the challenge, and have the force’s full support, but it takes time for new officers to get to know all they need.”
Stop and search
One of the trickiest parts for a new recruit can be knowing when and how to properly conduct arrests and stop and searches.
In 2023, Leicestershire Police conducted more than 6,400 stop and searches, compared to 5,500 the previous year. The number may have increased, but the success rate decreased by 2%. This trend suggests that the force may not be implementing the correct methods needed for these actions. Multiple grounds need to be covered to ensure a stop and search is legitimate and within reason.
Jake said: “We only stop and search when we have the grounds available to us and if we don’t have those then we can get into a lot of trouble.”
There is a concern that one factor which has contributed to unsuccessful stop and searches in the past has been discrimination. Are certain ethnicities searched because of officers’ prejudices? Jake said: “It tarnishes all police officers when you have one person doing the job wrong and being discriminatory. Luckily, it’s not something I’ve seen in Leicester.”
Despite not seeing any such discrimination at first hand, Philippa said: “We hear about police officers that don’t have the right intentions in the news and that does make our job really challenging.”
It’s important to remember that other factors can lead to unsuccessful stop and searches too, such as suspects becoming violent or acting suspiciously.
It’s easy to forget that the public can also show prejudice and are at times violent towards officers, which is something Philippa hopes the show will shine more light on.
Philippa said: “The level of aggression we have to deal with from the public is something that isn’t appreciated enough and that can make it difficult when we are explaining our reasons for what we are doing whereas now people can see it on the television so it almost explains itself.”
Watching the police conduct their work can be reassuring for viewers. A sense of safety is built up when we know there are officers out there handling the dangerous situations that we wouldn’t want to face ourselves.
But for our new recruits, having the cameras around can be troublesome at times. Jake said: “Sometimes they can be really useful but sometimes it can be quite the opposite.”
He continued: “For example, we’d turn up and someone might be really aggressive and hostile but once they see the camera they completely switch and calm down, but sometimes they can get in the way and cause problems, like some suspects would go berserk about being filmed.”
The camera crew allow us to see what goes on in the job. According to Jake, what we see is truly how it is: “They just watch what you do on an everyday basis, it’s very accurate to real life.”
That opinion was shared by Philippa: “I think it comes across really well in the show how we have to deal with such a broad selection of issues in such a short space of time.”
The first season of Fresh Cops did a great job of showcasing police work in a realistic way and that has been maintained in the second season too.
In the opinion of our stars, this season is better than the first. Jake said: “Season two is a lot more action packed. Season one we were just working things out but season two has a lot more action and generally a lot more footage as well.”
Philippa agreed: “There is lots of action, I know Jenny and I have had lots of it ourselves so I’m sure everyone else did as well.”
The show cannot show us what the future holds for our protagonists but their minds are already made up about their next steps. Jake said: “I really want to go onto the firearms unit and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
This is Philippa’s first year as an officer. She is intent on making sure she becomes the best she can in her current role. “I’ve only just started,” she says, “so my five-year plan would be to be a good police officer.” We can see that same resolve in all the new recruits for the new season.
Fresh Cops season two is currently showing on BBC Three and all episodes are available on BBC iPlayer.