Darren Lillywhite

Detective Inspector, Gatwick Airport, Sussex Police

I studied A levels in History, Classics and Politics at Collyer’s from 1988-1990. Collyer’s really expanded my horizons and helped with completing my Politics A level in a year, after I had made some incorrect decisions about the courses I wanted to do. I did have some great teachers and met some great friends from the wider area, including my wife!

After Collyer’s I worked for Midland Bank on a Management Development programme which included branch banking experience and regional office work.

In 1996 I joined Sussex Police as I wanted to experience a greater variety of work and wanted to spend more time out of an office environment. I have been successful in being promoted to Sergeant, then Inspector and now Detective Inspector. I have undertaken various professional qualifications, including Level 4 and Level 5 Chartered Institute of Management Qualifications. The flexibility of the Police has enabled me to perform a wide range of roles, whilst working for the same organisation. I have spent time working on response policing, CID, Intelligence, Safeguarding and now Gatwick Airport. A real mix of uniform and plain clothes roles.

I am part of a force making the everyday life of the people of Sussex a little safer through the work we do. I hope that I have made a difference to many of the people I have encountered over the years, whether they are victims of crime, suspects or families and friends of those we encounter.

I have a series of daily meetings to commence the day, establishing what incidents have gone on during the last 24 hours, ensuring that my team are able to manage any prisoners who need interviewing and carry out investigations to the serious incidents that have occurred. I manage the daily resources of the team, ensure that safeguarding is completed in cases involving vulnerable people and that the relevant legislation, force policies and procedures are applied to all investigations. I also perform an on-call function, offering advice and assisting with serious crime management outside of normal working hours.

I love my job as the variety of incidents we deal with makes every day different, but most importantly the ability to help and support people who may need it during what can be very difficult times.

To fulfil my role you need great communication skills for dealing with the public, partner agencies and the team. Tenacity helps as some investigations can take a look time to complete alongside a sense of humour and the ability to not take things too personally. Resilience is important, to keep doing the job daily for many years, in often challenging situations, and keep coming back for more is important.

There are many more routes into policing now than there were when I joined in 1996. There are routes for graduates and non-graduates. There is a scheme where officers can join and study for a degree whilst policing, which recognises the professionalisation of the service. It also helps officers who may not wish to consider large amounts of student debt whilst studying at university. There are also a number of ways to support officers that may need additional support to carry out their duties. It is a tough job, working across a 24/7 365 shift pattern and we have to deal with some very tough things, but someone has to do it.

The advice I would give to my younger self is do not worry about not knowing what you want to do with your career as it can take some time to find the ideal job for you. Try and find family or friends with a variety of careers and ask them questions about what is really involved in their role.

What next Darren? I am likely to retire in the next 3 years. I have a number of choices as I can stay within policing, possibly as a member of staff, or find a completely different job. I am really looking forward to having another career, I just don’t know what it is yet!