I am nothing short of absolutely gutted and profoundly upset to learn an hour ago, that Liv Pontin died earlier today. @Liv1204, as she was known on Twitter, was a kind and gentle young woman of considerable insight and passion, who had recently started working for Northamptonshire Police in a role that allowed her to give expression to her deep experience of being policed whilst living with mental illness. She helped make policing better and I’m so very sad she won’t be able to help make us better still. I’m also so glad I noticed on Twitter it was her 30th birthday in April and said, “Happy Birthday, Liv! – keep chipping away. You not only make a difference: you ARE the difference.” I hope she felt the love and the gratitude that was evidently abundant for her, not just from me.
I first ‘met’ Liv on Twitter – she would often respond to articles and discussions I was involved in, frequently and openly giving a deeply personal perspective on the issues officers are working through from the vantage point of someone who had lived through the sort of things they were dealing with. She openly explained she had been detained by officers under s136 MHA on a number of occasions, spent days of her life in police custody, not always in pleasant, cooperative circumstances but she was able to see later that officers were trying to help her and keep her safe when she couldn’t see at the time she was in difficulty. She never failed to be grateful, despite having good reasons not to be and was often unnecessarily apologetic for the challenges she realised she presented to officers who were probably not always confident about knowing how best to help her.
I was eventually lucky enough to meet Liv in person, more than once. She became connected to the policing courses and academics at Canterbury Christ Church University where she herself had studied and she came to the annual conferences and study weekends, keen to listen and discuss what was obviously important to her. I am already remembering with fondness a wonderful hour or so on the terrace at Canterbury in blazing hot sun with cold drinks where we got to discuss things in person for the first time – this continued with her going out with folk to relax and have a laugh, like police officers do.
People who know me realise all too keenly how much I like to talk! Liv made me listen – she also turned up at other policing events, silencing gobby cops with her introverted insights, helping anyone who wanted to let her try. She supported several forces with their local CPD and via social media and was constantly seeking chances to do more. I know she travelled to Lancashire and contributed to their ‘Mental Health Tac Advisors’ course and was very impressed by it – she supported College of Policing events and spoke to British Transport Police, receiving a letter of thanks for the Rail Minister in recognition of her efforts. I do think her contribution on Twitter made a deep and lasting impact on many frontline officers. You only have to look at Twitter this afternoon to see them expressing their sadness and distress at the loss of this young woman, far too soon.
LIV WAS ONE OF US
She took up employment with Northamptonshire Police earlier this year, evidently thrilled to be able to put her own experience in to formal practice working for a constabulary and being welcomed as a part of our policing family. She subjected herself to various anxious challenges to do this: not only the worry anyone has when they apply for a job but also being fully aware that police vetting procedures for all police staff involve enhanced DBS checks because of the nature of our work. This means, police held information that was not connected to unspent criminal convictions could be disclosed or considered relevant, if need be and having spent days in custody with challenging behaviours whilst unwell, it seems fair on her part to wonder if any successful job application would survive vetting. It’s to Northamptonshire’s absolute credit they saw her experience as no barrier and indeed, as something positive. She took up her position full of pride and enthusiasm, evident all over Twitter and we were as proud of her as she seemed of herself.
Liv was one of us – our sister in our policing family. She understood policing and was passionate about wanting to help officers with what she could see were the precarious and unreasonable positions in which they’re all too often placed. She wanted to help make us better – and she did. She made many of us on the frontline understand perspectives we hadn’t previously considered and the very best tribute I think we can pay to this kind, quiet and gentle young woman is to make sure we give effect to the lessons she taught us and help fight for other vulnerable people we remain in a position to help and save.
Liv – I already wish you could see people’s reaction to this awful news. People have tears in their eyes that you lost your struggle and we just wish we could have been there for you. We wanted to be, not just because you were us – and I just know an army of blue would have come running in a flash if we’d known you needed help. It would have been so wonderful for you to see how many people are impacted by the thought we’ve lost you and your gentle humanity – devastated to know you’re gone. You played an absolute blinder, had an impact way beyond your realisation and I’m not the only one who will profoundly miss both you and your contribution to what we do.
If you’d like to read about Liv’s life and loves, you can do so on her own blog. Its name may bring a tear to your eye, given what’s just happened.
My profound condolences to Liv’s family and her boyfriend, Paul – rest in peace, lovely girl.
Winner of the President’s Medal,
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award
All opinions expressed are my own – they do not represent the views of any organisation.
(c) Michael Brown, 2019
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