Alumni Spotlight: PC James Whild and the national roll-out of Naloxone
Tuesday 31st January 2023
Former primary school teacher Police Constable James Whild launched his career as a neighbourhood police officer in 2018, when he joined West Midlands Police via Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme.
Whilst on the programme, James proactively worked with the Police and Crime Commissioner to introduce and trial Naloxone – a first-aid medication which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. He was instrumental in rolling out Naloxone in Walsall and led the evaluation of a pilot study in Birmingham City Centre and Walsall Town Centre.
Since then, James has worked alongside academics to increase the evidence base for the use of this medication and is now one of the key experts on police use of Naloxone nationally.
He is now the Co-Lead of Police Now’s National Policing Drugs Network and is supporting other police forces across the UK as they begin to introduce Naloxone. These forces have reported positive usage of Naloxone, stating lives have been saved.
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Police Constable James Whild
Police Constable James Whild:
“I joined Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme in 2018, having previously worked at a primary school in Smethwick. I started work as a teacher after graduating from the University of Wolverhampton and found a job in a local school where I worked for the next seven years. Whilst working there, I discovered a passion for safeguarding and before long changed job to become our school’s Child Protection and Wellbeing Officer, frequently working alongside the police.
“Working so closely with the police gave me a taste of how rewarding a career in policing could be and so, after seeing a Facebook advert for Police Now, I decided to apply. I was (and still am!) passionate about helping achieve long-term change in society through problem-solving – an ambition which really chimed with Police Now’s mission.
“With this mission in mind, I started Police Now’s programme, and it was at the training academy, right at the start of my policing career, that I became particularly interested in the problem of drugs in society. Through both Police Now’s training and my own personal research, I began to understand the issue in greater depth and came across the life-saving medication Naloxone.
“At the time, Naloxone had yet to be piloted in the UK, however West Midlands’ former Police and Crime Commissioner was looking to trial the medication in our region. Police Now prepares you to be a leader from the start of your career, and this encouraged me to reach out to their office to see how I could get involved, despite having just joined the service. To my surprise, they took me up on the offer, and I was invited to join a meeting with a number of senior officers who would be leading the UK’s first Naloxone trial.
“Over the course of the next year, I was responsible for leading the evaluation of the trial alongside my everyday duties as a police constable. Through distributing questionnaires, I gathered very positive feedback from drug service users at a local needle exchange, as well as police officers who had been trained to administer the medication.
“In March 2020, during my second year on Police Now’s programme, I gained approval from senior leadership to begin the process of bringing Naloxone to my own ward and town centre in Walsall. I also arranged a Police Now external secondment with the University of Sheffield, and I used the opportunity to build on the evaluation of the pilot with the support of leading academics and researchers. I ended up completing the evaluation on a part time basis, including writing a 10,000-word dissertation alongside my day-to-day duties.
“I was able to share these findings and research at several national policing events, highlighting to forces across the UK the benefits of Naloxone – particularly for improving people’s perceptions of the police and demonstrating that we’re here to protect and preserve life.
“Since graduating from Police Now’s programme in 2020, I’ve worked as a neighbourhood police officer as well as in several other roles, including on an Exploitation Hub and a Youth Violence Team. Alongside these roles, I have continued to share my research with police colleagues and partner agencies, and it’s been fantastic to see forces across the UK following suit and introducing Naloxone themselves – just last month Police Scotland announced that they have administered the medication at more than 100 incidents and more than 4,000 kits have been issued so far. Knowing that I’ve played a part in encouraging forces to use this life-saving drug has got to be my proudest moment is policing so far.
“Working as Co-Lead for Police Now’s National Policing Drugs Network has given me another opportunity to regularly share my knowledge and experience as well as hear from colleagues facing the same challenges. We meet online every two months where we provide a space for sharing best practice with the aim of driving positive change and harm reduction on a national scale.
“Next year I’ll be starting Police Now’s Frontline Leadership Programme, a year-long course designed to develop leadership and policing skills, which will help me prepare for promotion and pursue leadership roles within the service. I’ll also be joining West Midlands Police’s Partnerships team as a School Intervention and Prevention Officer in Walsall. This role will bring together my policing skills and former knowledge as a teacher, as I’ll be supporting local schools, helping with child safeguarding and deterring young people from venturing into crime. It’s definitely set to be a busy 2023!”