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My life as a police officer: a Q&A

Ahead of tomorrow’s International Women’s Day, we asked a female police officer about her experience of working in a police force in the UK. She talks about her motivations for joining the police, some of the challenges facing officers today, and shares some advice for aspiring officers.

What attracted you to a career in the police?

I’ve always been interested in the police. When I was applying for 6th form, I remember being asked what I wanted to do for a career and I said that I’d like to join the police, but I wanted to complete my A-Levels in order to give me other career opportunities. When I finished my A-Levels the police force had a five year recruitment ban still in place so I went to university, but a year after I finished studying, the police force was recruiting, so as it had always been a dream of mine, I applied. After a year long process, I was successful.

Is there anything that surprised you about the job?

It is largely how I expected it to be, although I did expect more physical paperwork, but we have work tablets so everything’s online, saving time and resources, and reducing the need to copy the same information onto several pieces of paper.

When I joined I was surprised at some of the jobs we get called to as response officers, even members of the public can be confused as to why we are there sometimes, but it is part of the job and each call is important in its own way. One of the things that surprised me most when I first started was that a verbal argument between family members or partners is recorded. Many would probably consider an argument as something fairly minor, often not needing police attendance, however if police have been called, it will be recorded.

I was also pleasantly surprised at how well all the emergency services work together as a team when it’s needed.

Can you tell us a bit about what you might do in a ‘typical day’?

When I first started, a typical shift pattern would be either five days working and three days off, or four days working and two days off, with no real pattern to the hours, but we’ve moved to working four days on and four days off with 2 splits on each of the teams. I find this pattern a lot better, you always know when you’re working, and it’s more sociable so you get to see more of your friends and family.

No two days are the same but you do get patterns in day and night shifts. It’s quite common for a Road Traffic Collision to come in during the morning rush hour, likewise it’s common that a missing person will come in during the evening shift, but obviously this isn’t always the case.

What would be your top tips for an aspiring police officer?

I think the most important thing is for people to do their research and have a long hard think if it’s right for them. This job requires a lot of dedication, you can’t just leave at the end of the shift because you’re timetabled to go home if you are in the middle of a job, and it can at times be very antisocial. If you put the effort in, ask for help when you need it, and always strive to do your best, people can’t ask for more.

I believe you have to really want to do this as a career because at the end of the day, police officers deal with things that members of the public couldn’t imagine. You see things first hand that other people certainly wouldn’t see on a day to day basis, and it can at times be taxing on your emotions. Also you have to deal with a lot of people who don’t like the police and you have to spend a lot of time with those people to try and show them that you want to help them and try to break down the barriers that might be there.

Feeling that you know you have helped someone is so satisfying and drives you during your next job.

What are the best things about your job?

Feeling that you know you have helped someone is so satisfying and drives you during your next job. I love working with people, even if they don’t want me there, and I love going into work and knowing what the day has in store for me.

What do you think are some of the major challenges being faced in policing today?

I think one of the major issues faced by police today is public perception. Mistakes have been made in the past and as a result of that, many members of the public have lost faith in the police. I think we should strive to rebuild that trust and I sincerely hope that in the future there will be less of a divide. I believe first impressions last for a lifetime, so I treat everyone with respect and do my utmost to help them in what ever way I can.

Another important issue I’ve learned about recently is to do with domestic violence. Studies have shown that many individuals undergo several incidents of domestic violence before calling the police. It’s such a tragedy that this happens, people should feel that they can call the police whenever they need to, that they’ll be treated with respect, and that the officers who attend will be pro-active. I know a lot of forces in England have made this their priority and I hope that in the near future people will contact the police straight away.

Can you describe your job in three words?

Rewarding/Hard/Unpredictable (but in a good way!)

Are there any women who inspire you?

The one person I look up to and can always count on is my mum. Like many other women in this world she has been a single mum trying to bring up 3 children. I think she has done a remarkable job, she is so strong and I know I can always count on her no matter what, no matter when. If I can be half of the person she is, I will be very happy indeed.

Featured image credit: Officers on patrol by West Midlands Police. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

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