We lost a truly great man this weekend, our friend, Steve Black – know as ‘Blackie’ to all that knew him.
Blackie spent time with us at Cleveland Police helping with a culture change that saw him engage with hundreds of staff members on a 1-2-1 basis and by extension, make Cleveland Police a better place to work and Teesside a safer place to live.
It would be tempting to suggest that his natural environment was in a sports changing room and he did coach the Newcastle Falcons, Wales and the the British and Irish Lions rugby teams (amongst many more notable teams in different sports) but I’m not sure that tells the whole story – his natural environment was with people wherever they were and whatever they did.
For all the contributions he made to our work at Cleveland, his greatest achievement was not in the direct task of making us better at our jobs but of being better people. To borrow the sporting vernacular, the question we would spend hours debating was:
“Who are you without the ball?”
Blackie wanted to know who you really were and what motivated you. He would gently, almost imperceptibly, get you talking about yourself. He recognised that the person you are and the job you do are two separate things but that being true to yourself would make you better and what you did.
In the deep conversations we shared, ranging from the teachings of Marcus Aurelius (a man he insisted he was in school with, which always made me laugh) right through to John Wooden, we settled on a way of of developing Cleveland which echoes loudly here at Dyfed Powys Police where everyone strove to be the best version of themselves – no more but certainly no less. He reassured me that everything else would take care of itself. He was right – better people do make better leaders.
The sense of loss expressed by those that knew him is profound and my wish is that the light created by his presence outshines the darkness cast by his passing.
For all the grief that’s expressed today and will be over the coming period, we must remember that our thoughts first and foremost should be not for our loss as individuals but for his family who are grieving for a lost husband, father and grandfather.
We’ll miss you Blackie and to borrow the last thing you always expressed in a conversation, God Bless