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26th November 2015 - Press Release

Port bobby's 40 years on the front line is hard to beat

Staying in any job for 40 years is a major achievement - but spending those decades at the sharp end of policing is rare.

For 30 years, Tony Searle patrolled the streets of Dover and Folkestone with Kent Police, and for the last 10 he’s been a bobby with Port of Dover Police.

In fact, his time as a frontline constable is just seven years away from matching the record for Britain’s longest serving police officer – and he insists he has no plans to retire any time soon.

“I love the job,” he said. “I’ve had stints with CID but I’m happiest on the streets.

“Being a police officer isn’t about arresting people – it’s about helping society. First and foremost, we’re the ones the public will turn to when they’re in difficulty or afraid. No matter what the situation, they know we’ll always get stuck in and provide support and protection in any way we can.

“Whether it’s getting a motorist to safety after a traffic incident or helping young people who are on a path to criminality to turn their lives around, our role is totally people focused.”

When Tony, 59, first started pounding Dover’s streets, Margaret Thatcher had just been appointed leader of the Conservative opposition, the war in Vietnam was coming to an end, ‘revolutionary’ Betamax video cassette systems had just gone on sale, and the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jaws was hitting the big screens.

Armed with a truncheon, handcuffs… and a whistle, he could only keep in touch with his station by meeting his inspector at prearranged times, at prearranged locations.

“I think it was a procedure that dated back to the time when we still used police telephone boxes,” he said. “Police communications were pretty basic back then.”

Law enforcement and technology were not the only changes Tony witnessed during his decades on the beat. The Port itself also transformed.

“One of my roles with Kent Police was to mentor and tutor new officers,” he said. “And part of that involved showing them around the Port of Dover. I got to know the place and its people very well – that’s how I ended up working here. I was told that if I ever fancied a change, there would be a job here for me with the port police.

“I’ve seen some major changes in that time – the hovercraft and fast ferries have gone. But the redevelopment of the Western Docks is just what Dover needs; it’s good to see investment coming into the town.”

Tony moved to Dover after leaving the family home – his father was in the British Army and Tony had grown up on military bases.


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