Being a Female Detective Constable
What's it like being a Detective Constable?
Amy has 2 children and a cat called Holly! Amy lives in Oxfordshire with her husband who is also a Police Officer. Amy enjoys going out with her family and friends and enjoys playing around with hair and make-up.
Job title: Detective Constable
Current employer: Police
Industry: Public Sector
How long have you been practising in this field? 12 years.
What’s your job title and location?
I'm a Detective Constable and work at a Police Station covering Oxfordshire.
What hours do you typically work per week?
I work a flexible pattern as I am a mum, I work a mix of day and late shifts (usually 10 hours each) and also 1 in 3 weekends. Shift work is a big part of being a police officer, some officers work night shifts, sometimes you have to work longer hours to go to court and you have to work bank holidays like Christmas day as policing is a 24 hour job.
Full time colleagues work 40 hour weeks like most jobs although police officers don’t get an official lunch break so are paid all the way through the day, as we often don’t have time to stop for a proper meal! Different police departments have different shift patterns. Detectives don’t really have to do night shifts but can sometimes end up staying all night when dealing with a case!
In your current role, what do you spend your time doing?
The police are there to help people who have been hurt and may be scared. I investigate serious crimes, which means I go to crime scenes to interview victims and find and speak to witnesses. I also interview people who have been arrested and try and figure out who has committed the crime.
Detectives are more office-based than uniformed police officers and we have a lot of paperwork but will regularly go out to interview witnesses. I probably go into court on a weekly basis and if you have a case where there is a trial at court you could have to go every day for 2 weeks or more sometimes.
As a detective you have to have more of an investigative mindset and basically go into a case in more detail to try and solve it. All officers have to investigate crime but detectives have specialist training to investigate more serious and complex cases and have more specialist training on how to question and challenge people.
What's it like working in your role? What does a typical day look like?
As a police officer there is no typical day - it really depends on what crimes have been committed over the proceeding hours. First thing I do when I get into work is work with my team to check what crimes have happened overnight and we look who has been arrested. We check to see if any of those crimes or prisoners are serious or complex enough to need to be escalated to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). If so, those cases are allocated detectives and prioritised.
When someone is arrested, we generally have 24 hours to either charge them with a crime or release them, so you have to be very flexible and able to work quickly under pressure. In this time you will have needed to interview them, as well as victims and witnesses, and make all your other enquiries. In exceptional circumstances you can get more time if a superintendent (high ranking police officer) authorises this.
I also have my own caseload of ongoing crimes to investigate. For these I will be likely to need to interview people, take statements, maybe try and find CCTV. And the rumours are true there is lots of paperwork to do!
Has anyone ever been surprised when you told them that you were in this role?
I have been told I don't 'look like' a police officer before but mostly people are just very interested when you say you what you do and ask me lots of questions. The most common question I get is whether I get scared! My husband is also a police officer but we think people ask female officer that question more often!
To answer that question, when I was a new police officer I felt nervous about what situations I would face and whether I could deal with them but being busy and learning on the job, your confidence grows. Sometimes as a police officer you can be in dangerous situations but you are trained to deal with them and have lots of colleagues to support you. Every year you do officer safety training where you practice managing violent people or situations. You also have your personal protective equipment such as handcuffs, baton and an incapacitating spray. But most importantly you learn communication skills which is the most important skill for a police officer.
Are there any specific qualifications you are required to have in your field?
There are no formal educational requirements for entry to the police service.
Tell us more about your career journey. How did you get to where you are today?
From a young age I wanted to be a police officer, so I made sure I worked hard at school to obtain my GCSEs and A-Levels. I also did work experience with the police when I was around 15 for a week. My neighbour who worked for the police helped arrange this and I got to see a number of different departments and what they do, including mounted branch (horses), dog unit, front counter of the police station and forensics.
I went to university and obtained a degree in criminology. You don’t necessarily need a degree to join the Police but it’s a good life experiences to have under your belt before you join. My degree cemented by decision to join the police. I really enjoyed my degree, I learnt a lot about why people commit crimes and the lecturers had all previously worked in the criminal justice field as police or probation officers or in prison so were very experienced. My degree was very interesting, covering all parts of the criminal justice system. I got to go on lots of field trips, including prison. Going into prisons was a little daunting at first but I was interviewing women as part of my primary research for my dissertation. These women had volunteered and I enjoyed hearing their stories - they just wanted to be heard.
After graduating I applied to join the police and this took around 18 months, you have to complete an application, interview, role play scenarios and fitness and medical applications and strict vetting. Whilst waiting to join I worked with young people who had committed crimes trying to help them. I have been a police officer for 12 years, I have worked in a response role where you respond to people when they have called 999. I have been a detective for 3 years, to become a detective you have to do an exam and then application and interview.
What were your favourite subjects at school?
Art, English and History and then Psychology for A Level.
Was there anything you liked doing at school that helped you get to this career?
I did a police themed week when I was at primary school and on the Friday my mum came to watch me 'pass out' marching around the playground and I told her that I wanted to be a police officer when I grew up and I always kept this dream!
What did you want to be as a child when you 'grew up'?
A Police Officer!
Can you remember what your parents reactions were to that aspiration?
My mum didn't take me seriously because I was so young when I decided I wanted to work in the police but when I maintained my interest in becoming a police officer and did well at school, they supported the idea.
Can you remember your parents or teachers wanting or encouraging you to go into a specific career?
What do you think are attitudes towards and expectations of women in your particular role?
Some people respect the police and unfortunately some don't, some people will just see your uniform and have an opinion about you based on that. There are more male police officers than female, approximately 30% female officers to 70% male. I have never had an issue being a female and think I have always been treated fairly and equally.
There is support for female officers with career progression and advancement. And for the first time in the country, we have a female Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police - the highest ranking police officer role.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Every day is different and you never know what each shift will bring. This variability keeps the job interesting for me.
What are 3 things you have to like to do your job?
Working with people
What advice would you give to young girls who are aspiring to be in your role, or who maybe haven't even considered it as a career?
Being a girl should not deter you from being a police officer as it does not make a difference. There are so many different specialist roles you can do within the police - detectives, firearms, dog unit, roads policing, specialist search officers - if you want to help keep people safe, it’s likely you’ll find something that’s a good fit.
Starting salary: Around £20,000 and this increases to £39,000 over 7 years.
Qualifications required: There are no formal educational requirements.There are six stages to the application process, including: an application form and situational judgement test, online numerical and verbal tests, video interview, assessment centre, vetting, medical and fitness, and references.
Stats: As at 31 March 2017, 29% of all officers were female (the highest proportion on record) and 6% of all officers were Black and Minority Ethnic (BME).