Paula Roker, who lives in the Newark and Sherwood district, celebrated on International Microvolunteering Day
A former police constable who refused to leave policing behind despite being confronted by a man with a machete has been recognised for her dedication to Nottinghamshire.
Paula Roker, who lives in the Newark and Sherwood district, was on response in Lenton when she was called to an incident where a man was wielding a machete at people in a block of high rise flats nearby.
Being the first officer arriving at the scene and knowing backup was on the way, she headed up seven flights of stairs to make sure she didn’t miss him coming out, but instead she found herself face-to-face with the offender who was brandishing the weapon straight at her.
"It all happened so quickly," said Paula. "I just remember seeing him and thinking: what am I doing?
"I had ran into the building without a thought for my own safety and was suddenly standing face-to-face with a man carrying a machete.
“I realised almost immediately that I knew him because I had helped him sort a domestic incident the week before and luckily he recognised me too. I was almost relieved.
"The man had mental health issues including paranoid schizophrenia, personality disorder and bipolar disorder.
“He came over to me and put his arms around my neck to hug me, still holding the machete, as I tried to calm him, however at the same time a six-strong backup team from Canning Circus police station had just arrived and thought he was attacking me with the machete.”
The man was detained under the mental health act without anyone suffering any injuries and was taken to the Bridewell custody suite before going on to a mental health unit where he was already a patient.
For Paula though, the incident did not end there, and it wasn't until afterwards when the shock set in and her mind was taken over with questions of what could have happened.
She realised that there were only a few factors which had prevented it from being a completely different story and it began to really shake her up.
“I would replay the incident in my mind and would often think; what if I hadn’t have dealt with him before and he didn’t know me and calm down? Officers are putting their lives on the line every day to protect the public and we do it without a second thought,” Paula said.
"I was only two years into my service at the time and my mental health definitely suffered as a result.
"Just things like feeling anxious and worried about what was going to happen at incidents I was sent to.
"Back in 2004, when this happened, mental health and post-traumatic stress wasn't really recognised nationally by any organisation.
"It's much different now. When officers are subjected to anything like this, there's lots of measures in place to protect them and make sure they're supported in and out of the work place."
Paula left policing a few years after the incident and went on to run pubs and then on to work as a security officer.
However, she could never fully leave the force behind and decided to put herself forward as a volunteer.
In June 2019 she was appointed as a volunteer social media assistant to support Newark and Sherwood neighbourhood team with their engagement.
She has since completed over 800 hours as a volunteer and in September 2020 she was recognised for her efforts by being presented with a commendation in the Nottinghamshire Police awards.
Inspector Heather Sutton, District Commander for Newark and Sherwood, said: "Paula is an innovative and bubbly individual, and this has shone through in her work, helping the public see a human face to policing.
"She has understood what grasps public engagement, and used her knowledge to hinge crime prevention messages from.
"Understandably, she has displayed a particular dedication for tackling knife crime offences and has produced compelling content in relation to videos on amnesty bins and much more, in order to reach out to affected communities.
"She always goes above and beyond and dedicates time to her role nearly every day, replying to people messages and enquiries on social media.
"She identifies trends and concerns though comments and feeds them back to beat managers, she has done an outstanding job and been of real value and benefit to the area.
"Paula is an absolute asset to Nottinghamshire Police and, despite not feeling able to return to the front line, she has proven her resilience and has continued on her journey in fighting crime."
Microvolunteering is where a person or team of people complete tasks that are fundamental to a larger project on a voluntary basis.
For more information about Microvolunteering Day, click here.