It was at this point in 2001 that Andy moved into Operational Support Services (OSS), starting with ‘Operation Impact’, which he describes as a fantastic period of 12 months dedicated pro-active work, tackling violent crime, in particular the spike in street robberies.
Andy became an FLO – a Family Liaison Officer – quite soon after joining OSS, and it wasn’t necessarily his choice: “I was walking past Inspector Andy Battle’s office and he asked me what I was doing the following Monday. I paused and he said ‘too long, you’re doing an FLO course, I need a Sergeant on it’. So I did the course and soon after I did the FLC course, coordinator’s course, as a Sergeant.”
Not only has Andy performed the roles of Traffic Sergeant, FLO and FLO coordinator, he’s also a trained Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) but it’s his family liaison role that’s brought the biggest challenges in his career.
Soon after his FLO training, Andy was deployed to support an officer whose daughter and niece were killed in the Bali bombings. The Met had deployed 300 FLOs to Bali and Andy supported from the UK, liaising with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, taking the family to various meetings in London, including meeting the Foreign Secretary at the time, Jack Straw.
Andy has tragically dealt with the death of two close colleagues while on duty. He was the FLO when PC Glen Howe died in 2008, working with Glen in the Roads Policing Group and speaking with Glen over a cup of coffee just a few days before he died. Andy was then on nights when PC Dave Fields died last Christmas, breaking the news to Dave’s parents and spending time with his wife Emma at hospital.
“Both Dave and Glen were dedicated officers, both loved policing and both died doing something they loved,” Andy said.
There is so much that has made Andy proud over the years: “Standing up for those less fortunate and victims of crime, seeing some justice for them. I thrive on helping people, especially as a family liaison officer, from delivering devastating, life changing news to actually helping them to stand up again.
“The FLO role is the face of the police investigation to the family/next of kin; you are representing South Yorkshire Police so you have to perform the role with the utmost integrity and professionalism, above all, first and foremost, you, as the FLO are an investigator, forming an integral part of the investigation team.
“Being a FLO is one of the most rewarding roles that I’ve done but you have to remain professional, you can’t ever let it become personal. I’m a father, I’m a husband, a brother, a son; that transfers over. You have to have an invisible barrier and the resilience not to get emotionally involved but you can’t help feel empathy towards the people you’re supporting.”