The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) hosted the first BleepKind expo at the Defence School of Policing and Guarding, Southwick Park.
On Tuesday 14 March the MDP were proud to welcome colleagues from across the UK’s police forces to the BleepKind expo, the first of its kind in policing to bring together experts in fitness, health, and wellbeing.
BleepKind is a not-for-profit peer support network co-founded by two serving police officers, PS Carly Baillie from Northumbria Police and PS Jennifer Sharpling from the Metropolitan Police Service, to help those in professions, such as policing, to pass an annual fitness test, or what’s more commonly called the ‘bleep test’.
Through their own experiences, Carly and Jen found there were lots of reasons why servicing officers were struggling to maintain operational fitness and meet the bleep test standard for Home Office Forces, and that this was often met with misunderstanding and little or no support services in place to help officers.
This led to the pair setting up a BleepKind group on Facebook in their own time, which provides a safe place for members to discuss any challenges and give each other advice and support. The membership of this group grew exponentially, making Carly and Jen realise that there were a lot of people who needed help, and it was just as much of an issue for men as it was for women.
The BleepKind vision is very simple, ‘to promote a culture which prioritises fitness, health, and wellbeing through kindness, understanding, and support in order to ensure colleagues are ready to meet and exceed identified levels of operational fitness’.
In the MDP, our own changes to fitness testing over the last few years prompted us to improve the support we offer to officers. In 2020, the MDP launched the Defence Occupational Fitness programme, known as DOfit, and more recently the development of MDPfit, which is aimed specifically at MDP officers and improving access to fitness, health, and wellbeing support in the Force.
MDPfit project lead and MDP Health and Wellbeing Advisor, Ali Booker, worked closely with Carly and Jen to organise the BleepKind expo.
“The implementation of DOfit in the MDP highlighted the importance of understanding the unique needs of our officers and staff in achieving operational fitness. Like with BleepKind, kindness and understanding are at the heart of DOfit delivery, which has driven the ongoing development of DOfit itself as well as initiatives such as the silent bleep test and MDPfit resources. As soon as I heard about BleepKind — their approach to helping colleagues to improve fitness in a supportive and non-judgemental way — totally resonated with me.”
Early in 2022 Ali, Carly, and Jen came together to discuss how health and fitness support could be extended to colleagues from any Force, in a way that hadn’t been done before. The idea was to provide a day where participants could share learning and experiences from their respective force, as well as learn from subject matter experts in a truly collaborative way.
Opened by Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli from Hampshire Constabulary, the expo covered three key themes:
- supporting operational fitness
- health and nutrition in a policing context
- mindset and psychological growth
The expo included presentations from Police Treatment Centres, Oscar Kilo, and Call4Backup. There were also panel discussions, an interactive session with David and Jackie, two Physical Education Instructors from Police Scotland, and the Hampshire Police Federation Welfare van was there all day to provide refreshments.
Ali delivered a session on nutrition and shift work, and this was followed by a workshop on mindset and overcoming test anxiety with former Essex Police officer, Emma Jones — now a psychotherapist supporting officers with test anxiety.
“After over a year in the planning, Carly, Jen and I are elated with the success of the first BleepKind expo. It has been a privilege for the MDP to host this event — I would like to thank our sponsors Police Sport UK, all the exhibitors, and the team of MDP fitness instructors who worked tirelessly throughout the day to make the event the success it was. Our fitness instructors are a credit to the MDP, and their professionalism was complimented by attendees throughout the event.”
For the BleepKind expo, Carly and Jen were joined by their ‘baby bleepers’. In fact, when the team began planning the event both children were newborns and have been a part of all the expo planning meetings. It was important to Carly, Jen and Ali that the babies were a part of the expo; to normalise the balance between motherhood and professional life, and to overcome some of the stigma around breastfeeding in public spaces. In addition, Carly and Jen perform roles with the National Breastfeeding Network and Police Perinatal Mental Health group .
“For us, as we do BleepKind in our own time, we have the freedom to design our own blueprint for including family life in our work. I think this also adds to our credibility with those who are experiencing similar challenges. They see we are the same as them, that we understand, and that we genuinely want to help. Hopefully others will feel empowered to take whatever steps they need to in order to be a parent and a police officer. It’s like Jen often says — if you can see it, you can be it.”
“Being a police officer and a Mother is unique. It’s two worlds colliding in a flash. BleepKind is so precious to me because I know the struggles becoming a Mum in policing brings and I’m desperate for others to feel reassured that there are colleagues who understand.”
Feedback about the event:
- “I’m blown away — I have never been in a room like this where everyone was kind and just lovely.”
- “I came away inspired and enthused to spend the day with such driven and passionate people. I really hope you realise how phenomenal the work you are doing is.”
- “It was a pleasure to be involved in the day. The BleepKind expo certainly opened my eyes to how far ahead of the curve we (MDP) are in terms of supporting our officers.”
BleepKind is available to all police officers, and those working in professions where fitness testing is a mandatory requirement of their role.
You can request to join the group on Facebook or follow #BleepKind on Twitter (@bleepkind).
Fitness, health, and wellbeing support in the MDP
The MDP is a fast becoming a leading force in police fitness support, and has been nominated for an Oscar Kilo National Police Wellbeing Award in wellbeing.
To find out more about fitness standards in the MDP visit www.mod.police.uk/. We also have a MDPfit playlist on YouTube with lots of useful videos from Ali to support officers fitness, health and wellbeing.