Ex-Derbyshire man discusses his unusual route into the police force.

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It’s never an easy decision to call time on your career as a professional cricketer, but Tom Knight felt the time was right to do just that when he began retraining to become a Police Constable with the Derbyshire Constabulary last year.

Knight, who played his final game for the Derbyshire 2nd XI at the age of just 23, admits he “didn’t really miss” playing cricket after his contract came to an end in 2016, despite a promising start to his career that saw him make 30 T20 appearances over the five previous years.

Following a stint working as a stonemason and playing club cricket in Australia, the Yorkshire native then took the decision to return to the UK and start afresh in a career better suited to him.

In a wide-ranging interview with one of the PCA’s Lead Personal Development Managers (PDM) Charlie Mulraine, Knight discusses his passion for criminology, going back to school and the similarities between his current and former careers.

  • CM: You first talked about joining the police in 2016. You were in the last year of your contract and you’d completed your Level 2 Coaching qualification. Is that right?
  • TK: Yes, that’s right. It’s always something I’ve thought about, even whilst I was playing. As you know, you’ve got to have a plan b and it was something I was considering. I didn’t know much about the job then but, as daft as it sounds, I was into my cop shows and criminology. Obviously, in 2016 I was entering the last year of my contract and you and I were meeting more and more so it was something we spoke about then.
  • CM: What about the police appealed to you?
  • TK: The excitement of doing something different every day, as well as recreating the adrenaline rush that you get from sport in a working environment.
  • CM: Are there any family links to the police?
  • TK: No family members but I had a few friends who were applying at the time. I spoke with them and got their thoughts on what the job was all about.
  • CM: You didn’t join up as soon as you left Derbyshire. Tell us what you did and why?
  • TK: I went out to Australia, almost like a last hurrah cricket-wise and I was weighing up whether to trial again but I wanted a bit of time away from the professional game. I really enjoyed it over there and played some good cricket. It was great to meet up with Richard Johnson, who also used to play at Derby, and we played in the same club side. When I came back in April 2017, I considered my options and just didn’t feel I was in the right frame of mind to trial again. If I’m honest, I didn’t really miss it. I actually applied to the police then but didn’t get through so it’s been a lengthy process to get my foot in the door.
  • CM: Did you feel you needed those two years to get professional cricket out of your system?
  • TK: Yes, I think so. Obviously, going from training every day to not being a pro is difficult. They do take club cricket very seriously in Australia, training twice a week and playing on a Saturday and occasionally midweek, and therefore it was as close as you could get to pro cricket. I got my first taste of real work out there and realised how lucky I was to have been a pro cricketer! In some ways, I probably took it for granted a little. It took me some time to get on my feet and work out what I wanted to do.
  • CM: What work were you doing out there?
  • TK: I was doing a little bit of stonemasonry, putting stone kitchens together. It was hard graft lifting heavy kitchen tops up flights of stairs. I really enjoyed it though, working in the sun and meeting new people.
  • CM: Were you a bit clearer about the direction of your career in early 2019?
  • TK: Yes, actually the period of applying to the police takes six months and then you have to wait another six months before you can apply again. That took a chunk of time out anyway and then I was doing a couple of jobs here and there which made up my mind that the police was the right option. I decided then to hit it full on and applied to be a Police Constable (PC) and Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) at the same time. Then in 2019, I managed to land both of them and decided to go for PC because that comes with the additional powers and responsibility.
  • CM: What was the training like?
  • TK: It took me back to school times, being in a classroom environment and listening to PowerPoints. The only real difference was that I actually wanted to learn! It was enjoyable with lots of role-play to try to recreate real-life scenarios. There was a three-week break over Christmas, which helped to break up the twenty-six week programme.
  • CM: What were the crossovers from cricket that you took take into this training?
  • TK: The unexpected is definitely part of being in the police and being a cricketer. That’s what attracted me really, the unknown and the adrenaline. Talking to people and communicating tactics is shared in both roles too. In the police, you have to plan for warrants and how you are going to approach it and so there is definitely crossover. This job is all about communication.
  • CM: I can imagine there’s a good sense of camaraderie as well?
  • TK: Again, that’s a crossover that slipped my mind. In cricket, you’re in a team of eleven and we have twelve on our shift in the police. At the moment I’m working in a pair, which you have to do in the first 10 weeks, and so in the briefings before and in the parade room in between jobs it’s a team environment. You look after each other and when you come back, when the other team comes on, we help each other out with paperwork. There’s good banter around looking for someone to slip up and they then have to bring in a ‘cake fine’ the following day. Also, when you get a bit of success on a job it’s nice to go back and everyone’s pulling in the same direction.
  • CM: What will your focus be now during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • TK: I’m on response policing so we deal with 999 or 101 calls. This means we will be dealing with them as and when they come in! Obviously some of them are to do with people breaking COVID rules so we respond to them by following a four-step process – Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce. When responding to things, we are told that if there is a chance of COVID we should then take the relevant measure of PPE to make sure we are looked after as much as possible.
  • CM: Any nervousness or fears concerning your own health?
  • TK: Yes, obviously I have some concerns but we take all the possible health and safety measures. Also, I come home to my girlfriend each night and therefore it’s not just me at risk it’s her as well! Having said that we have a job to do and we have to keep doing it, we just have to do our best to protect ourselves where possible.
  • CM: Have you thought about where you want to get to in the police?
  • TK: I’m pretty open-minded. I’m not exactly sure yet, as I’ve only been in for a short period of time. There are actually a lot of jobs within the police that you can consider. We had a guy talk to us who is in charge of all the policing at Derby County Football Club and all of the football teams in the local area that sounded very interesting. Traffic is potentially an area and the investigation side of it appeals, the meaty crime and covert investigations is also definitely intriguing. For now, I just want to get my feet under the table and get a good couple of years’ experience under my belt before deciding which direction to move into.