Police Superintendents Logo

Blog by Superintendent Emma Richards – PSA Gender Lead

Supt Emma Richards (l) and Supt Joe Edwards (r)

In my first blog as the PSA gender lead, I write about my personal experiences of being a police officer and being a woman, but also about my professional view on the myriad of issues that surround gender in policing.

I have been a police officer for the Metropolitan Police Service for 32 years and a mother of two for 26 of those years.  I spent 14 years learning about the Service and what it meant to be a police officer at the rank of PC before I entered the promotion cycle. 
Women are statistically still the main carers for both children and for elderly relatives, and this was the case for me, so I was part-time in all ranks up to that of Chief Inspector.  This was crucial for me  – you’re always in demand as a parent, but in particular as a mum.
Now, I’m the superintendent for the Territorial Support Group and the Dog Support Unit in London and 26 years ago I was the first person in the Met to have worked in this unit part-time.  Now, my children are grown up and I’m a full-time officer but I am a passionate believer in the fact that critical operational roles can be carried out flexibly, by the professional, committed individuals who are dedicated to our Service whilst retaining caring responsibilities they have every right to.
The PSA has long fought for flexibility and recognition for serving officers with caring responsibilities and has continually asked the Government to define the working hours of superintendents, to enable members with a real need to go part time or work more flexibly, without getting penalised by their pension or pay.  Having been through this experience personally, I was delighted that in April 2020, in the midst of the Covid response, the Home Secretary agreed changes to regulations, providing flexible working opportunities for the superintending ranks.
Being forced into remote working by the Covid Pandemic has shown the Service, and everyone in industry, the value and potential of home working on so many levels.  It has shown we can be even more productive when away from an office environment, but it has pushed us into trusting our staff and recognising the value of discretionary effort.  Trust our people to do what they need to do, and they will work more effectively and efficiently.  
The potential for this, not only for people with caring responsibilities but for the entire workforce is significant. We need to retain our skilled, passionate experienced staff and creating a workforce culture based on flexibility and trust, will help us do this.  I have heard of many archaic opinions within the Service – colleagues have even told me of comments they’ve heard where managers have said they’d prefer to have men on their team because there’s less risk of losing them due to pregnancy or sickness!  This is not the culture we’re working hard to promote. We’re still losing too many talented female officers after having children because we don’t offer the flexibility they need and others are put off from applying for roles because they think it means sacrificing other areas of their life including their caring responsibilities. We are a strong, resilient, innovative Service that can and should cater for the diverse needs of our people.
I lead a team that works on public order – often seen as the tough, front line of policing and a place in which women are hugely under-represented.  I’m therefore in the minority by my senior rank, but also by my operational area. Policing officers a wealth of opportunities for development and specialisms, and these are open to everyone regardless of gender – something that we need to be better at promoting.  I have led over 100 officers to clear illegal raves or to facilitate protests, I’m responsible for the policing operation around huge national events – it’s a fascinating, challenging and rewarding role that is not restricted by gender.
My sense of humour is such that I often say I could clear a crowd by saying “menopausal woman in public order kit is being deployed, please go home!” I joke about this, but menopause is still a taboo subject, an uncomfortable word to use. As a Service, we must talk about it – we must recognise the impact it has on thousands of officers in the Service and put measures in place to support them.  Excellent work has already been undertaken in this regard and I’m keen that this continues.
I’m incredibly proud to be a police officer and a superintendent.  For me, the best thing about policing is you never know what the day will bring, or the decisions you will have to make. It’s an incredible feeling to know that the person next to you has your back, we really are one team.  
Now – our wider ‘team’ needs to grow, diversify and reflect the people in every part of our society, at every rank across our Service.