To mark International Women’s Day, Thames Valley Police is celebrating the positive impact that women have made within the force.
Women have played a vital part in the force since Grace Costin became the first women police officer in the Thames Valley in 1917; ninety years later Sara Thornton became the force’s first women Chief Constable.
In 1989 women made up 23% of our workforce, this percentage has now increased to 45%.
There are now many opportunities for women and men alike, as recruitment brand manager Caroline Cookson explains:“Thames Valley Police is committed to developing a workforce that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve, it is only through diversity that we can truly develop new views, solutions and approaches to the social issues we face daily.
“It is important we celebrate what we’ve achieved so far. In 30 years TVP has come a long way in terms of gender; back in 1987 only 13.5% of our police officers were women, today its 34% so progress has been made.”
Police Officer recruitment will be reopening in the spring, when the force is introducing its new Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship and Degree Holder Entry Programme. Members of the public can register an expression of interest to ensure they receive alerts when these entry routes go live via the following link https://thamesvalleypolice.tal.net/vx/lang-en-GB/mobile-0/appcentre-External/brand-3/xf-6432c5176298/candidate/jobboard/talentbank/1
The force also continues to recruit transferees into a number of roles including PCs, Detective Constables and armed response PCs, which is something that Caroline Cookson is keen to encourage: “It would be great to see more women in specialist roles like armed response for example, currently only 6% of our armed response officers are women."
One woman in a specialist role is PC Joy Jarvis of the Roads Policing Serious Collision Investigation Unit. She said:“I believe being a woman police officer is becoming easier as time goes on, especially with having the support agencies like Women’s Network available and having other female colleagues to talk to.
“I would recommend this career path to other women as it has lots of different departments in which you can work and specialise, plus it also has the ability for you to progress if you wish to.”
Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Ross is an example of an officer who has risen through the ranks during her 34 of service. “I started as a typist at Bletchley back in 1984 when I was 17,” she said. “I actually came on a six month temporary contract because I wanted to join and this was a good way to learn about the organisation.
“I won’t even go into the bad old days of being a woman in policing in the 1980s but suffice to say it was beyond tough and you had to be thick-skinned and resilient. It was also really tough for police staff.
“I have genuinely loved every minute of every day that I have come to work over the past 34 years. I would join again tomorrow and would encourage my kids to do so. Policing is all about helping others and making a difference and every day gives you the opportunity to do so in some small and other big ways.
“There are few barriers for women in policing but challenges still remain, women are disproportionately the main carers of children and flexible working in any 24/7 organisation is a challenge. Until we can achieve crèches and work based nursery care, which will always be geographically and financially challenging we will never be as accommodating as some people need or want.”
The force also has many opportunities for civilians, with 3,521 of the 7,723-strong workforce in staff roles, such as head of Forensic Services Karen Smith. “In the very early days civilian staff, particularly women were not considered equal in many ways to the police officers doing the same job,” she said. “In those days I would be asked if I was the Scenes of Crime Officers’ receptionist by officers entering the department, so we have come a long way.
“I would like to think that women in a similar position to me have proved that we can do the job equally well and have paved the way for other women to progress in a police career. Personally I cannot fault Thames Valley Police for the way I have been encouraged and allowed to progress and I have been very happy in my career.”
There are a number of police staff opportunities are currently open in various locations across the force, including Detention Officers, Business Change, Communications, Investigators and Forensic Administrators.
There are also opportunities to become a 999 or 101 call handler. This role is also offered as an apprenticeship which provides a fantastic opportunity to earn and learn, resulting in formal accreditation.
On International Women’s Day, Head of Force CID Detective Superintendent Bhupinder Rai has been reflecting on her career: “I joined TVP in 1992 after responding to a leaflet drop,” she said. “I was interested in joining it sounded exciting but never really thought I would get in. I applied anyway and hey presto.
“The numbers of female officers has risen steadily over the years I have been with TVP. That is encouraging as is the force’s focus on gender.
“However, what is disappointing to me until very recently the lack of work around increasing the numbers of BAME females both in number and rank. There is still some work to do to ensure representation across ranks and specialisms. We need representation so the public have trust and confidence in the force.
“My experience of being a female in TVP has been very positive in general with great improvements in issues that disproportionally affect women such as flexible working and menopause issues. “
South Oxfordshire and Vale officer and Chair of our LGBT Staff Support Network, Sergeant Steph Welsh has spoken about her experiences of coming out as gay to colleagues: “When I joined there was no one that was openly gay at the police station where I worked, and I never came out at work until I’d been in seven years,” she said. “It was exhausting not being able to be myself. When I did open up, my colleagues couldn’t have been more supportive. I wish I’d done it sooner.
“I became a Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officer when it was initially launched and that led to me joining the network. I became Chair in 2016 and my personal goal is to improve the network’s visibility as I don’t want people to feel like I did before I came out.”
Further information on all of our entry routes and opportunities, including volunteer roles, can be found on the force website: https://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/police-forces/thames-valley-police/areas/careers/careers/
Finally, Special Constable recruitment is also open across the force. With flexible shifts to fit around your personal commitments, this is a great way to contribute to the policing of your local community whilst working a regular job elsewhere.