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International Women's Day 2023 - Part 2

As part of International Women's Day 2023, we're showcasing the careers and achievements of some of our female members.  This year's theme is 'Embrace Equity'. Hear from them below:

Rhona Hunt, Neighbourhood Superintendent, Metropolitan Police Service

Why did you join the service?
Being a police officer was my childhood dream. I knew no one in policing and had no real understanding of the role, so I volunteered as a special constable whilst I was studying at university. From my first shift as a special constable I was certain I wanted to pursue a career in policing. Public service in any form is a hugely rewarding vocation but nothing compares to the variety on offer in policing.
Please summarise your career journey to date:
When I completed my degree in 2013 I joined as a PC and was posted to a neighbourhood policing team in Hackney. 

A year into my probation, a superintendent who knew me as a special constable got in touch with me and encouraged me to apply for the (then newly launched) PC to inspector fast track scheme. I wasn’t convinced by the prospect of promotion at the time, as I was really enjoying my neighbourhood role, but with their encouragement I decided to pursue the opportunity. My chief inspector prefaced his support of my application with clear advice on the need for me to focus on operational roles and operational competence at each rank. That piece of advice has stayed with me and to this day I think back to that before I submit a posting preference. 
After a further period of time as a PC in CID, emergency response and on secondment to Police Now, I was posted to Lambeth as a sergeant on an emergency response team. My two years as a response team sergeant will forever be a career highlight, I learnt so much about policing and about leadership. I then spent four years as an inspector, undertaking frontline roles as a duty officer and neighbourhood inspector, before moving into learning & development to work on the Police Educational Qualifications Framework and more specifically re-introducing coached patrol for new recruits - something I felt passionately about having seen new officers thrust into emergency response teams with little formal support. I then successfully applied for promotion to chief inspector and to my surprise was invited to apply for the fast track to superintendent. I spent a fascinating 12 months as a chief inspector working in professional standards, before being promoted to superintendent and returning to neighbourhood policing. I am nine months into my new role and rank and I am just starting to feel settled – thanks to the support of a great team, my peers and an executive coach (in my view a hugely undervalued resource!)

I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to lead extracurricular interests alongside my day job at every rank so far - public order, hostage and crisis negotiation and higher education. It has been tricky to maintain extracurricular commitments with other on-call requirements at this rank. I made the decision to step away from public order a couple of years ago, so I could commit more time to academic study and hostage and crisis negotiation. I have had so many opportunities in my career so far - the breath and variety in policing makes me certain I will never get bored. 

When did you become a superintendent and why did you seek promotion? 
I became a superintendent in June 2022. I was invited to attend the assessment centre, based on my performance in the chief inspector process. In all honesty I was a bit thrown when I got the email – it was a significant leap and I wasn’t sure whether a second accelerated promotion scheme was a credible career move. I had strongly considered pursuing opportunities to apply for a lateral transfer to DI, rather than apply for the chief inspectors process. Suddenly I was faced with the opportunity to become a superintendent. I was worried that applying for another promotion would narrow my opportunities to demonstrate a breadth of experience in different portfolios. I spoke to several senior leaders I respect and trust, to get their honest perspective before making the decision to attend the assessment centre. It is often hard to know what the ‘right’ decision is when it comes to turning points in your career, but I now have no doubts that becoming a superintendent was the right decision for me. Holding this rank is a massive privilege and I look forward to growing and developing my operational and leadership competence at this rank.

What have been the proudest moments of your career so far?
As a police officer - absolutely nothing will beat the feeling of using listening and communication skills to remove someone from a place of danger during a negotiation. My first experience of this was when I wasn’t yet a qualified negotiator but as an emergency response team sergeant. I was deployed onto a cordoned off Waterloo Bridge, with hordes of onlookers on either side and on Southbank below. A male in crisis was barely clinging on to the railings, leaning over the water in an almost catatonic state. I couldn’t even tell you how long I spent with him, time seemed to stop. A negotiator cell deployed, but allowed me to continue to lead the communication. Helping him back over the railings and into an ambulance is an experience that will always remind me how incredible policing is – countless frontline officers do this every day across the country. 
As a leader - it is having the opportunity to shape staff experiences in the workplace. Working within professional standards I became starkly aware of how much courage and vulnerability it takes to report wrongdoing. Having a member of staff approach you to disclose something highly personal and which they have been unwilling to share with anyone else, is the ultimate reflection of your reputation as a leader. Being in a position to make sure that appropriate action is taken and seeing the impact on the individual who came forward is significant. I look back at two specific cases I dealt with and feel proud that those individuals trusted me and that I was able to uphold my commitment to them. 

How do you think policing could better embrace equity?
Like every employer and society as a whole, we have so much work to do. My masters research was on police legitimacy, so this is a subject that I am really passionate about. I believe it is our collective responsibility to take an interest in equity, be it in relation to service delivery or our own organisational culture.

As individuals, we must push ourselves to hear the lived experiences of others, explore different perspectives and generally be more curious about the issues we have and how we can improve. Over the last three years I have consciously made an effort to seek out different perspectives. As part of a perspective-taking training project I introduced to the Met, I have had the opportunity to build connections with victim/survivors and community members across London. The training is community-led in its design and delivery. I intentionally recruited our ‘fiercest critics’ as I believe we needed to hear different experiences, even though this might make us feel uncomfortable. The individuals I have met through this have broadened my perspective. I now see this as a critical aspect of my continuous professional development. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts that challenge my thinking, seek out connections with activists in this space and make sure my social media feed isn’t an echo chamber. Dr Jessica Taylor (Victim Focus) has really stretched my understanding of misogyny, particularly in relation to the experiences of female victims of serious sexual assault. Sal Naseem (IOPC) has been fascinating to speak to about inequality and his LinkedIn feed is a great place to go if you want to better understand islamophobia. Tavier Taylor (CMI) and I have had some really honest conversations about policing and race. I could go on, but my main point is that everyone in policing, no matter what their rank or role, should see educating themselves about inequity as an essential aspect of their professional development. We should be able to acknowledge our own areas of ignorance, invite different perspective and promote considerate debate about topical issues.

Gaining perspectives about experiences in the workplace is just as critical. Dr Sarah Charman’s research on policing culture, attrition and organisational justice is a must read for any police leader. Relationships with staff support associations, networks and individuals across ranks are important to cultivate and maintain so as leaders we don’t get blinded by the optimism of our own experiences. Research shows that the more senior you get, the less reality you see, and the more optimistic you become. I only have two posters stuck up on my wall at work – the five balls of life and the iceberg of ignorance. The iceberg of ignorance is there to remind myself of the need to reality check assumptions and ideas with those who see and hear far more of the reality than I do.

To make real change we need to demonstrate a genuine personal interest in embracing equity: taking time to learn about the experience of others, reality check any assumptions we might have, acknowledge gaps in our knowledge and commit to learning more as part of our continuous professional development. We need to start more conversations internally and externally, so others commit to supporting this ambition and are able to contribute.

Chief Superintendent Jenny Barnett, Area Commander for West Essex in Essex Police.

Jenny wanted to be a force for good and decided to become a police officer when she was 18 to represent her community and encourage others to join too, but her eyesight let her down.

Jenny stayed within public sector and her 30 year career includes local authority performance improvement and change management at the London Borough of Newham, and senior management roles at Cambridge University.  She worked her way up through the civil service grades to become Deputy Director of the Magistrates and Crown Courts across a large sector of London. She’s also tackled strategic vision and leadership at Cork University Dental School & Hospital, and handled performance improvement and large-scale change.

In 2014 she returned to Newham to take up an operational role with the Met Police, as one of the first cohort of the Direct Entry Superintendent programme. Her motivation? To represent her community, make a sustainable, positive difference to society, and to the organisation for the benefit of the people she serves and those she works with.  

She is passionate about policing, and strongly believes in authentic leadership and workplace inclusion.  She has been responsible for all uniform policing (operational response and neighbourhood policing) across Newham and Enfield.  She was responsible for supporting operations at Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, and more recently she took a leading role on managing the response to COVID for Specialist Operations across London.  She has also worked on increasing representation and inclusion in the MPS.

Since joining Essex in 2021, Jenny has led on Professionalism drafting the Force Professionalism Strategy and the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy.  She has been th4 Area Commander for West Essex since January 2022.

Jenny’s mother came to the UK from Grenada in the 1960s.  She originates from Dagenham and grew up in Surrey Docks, London on the Silwood estate, where she lived with her mum and brother.  Her extended family were raised in Dagenham where she spent all her school holidays and weekends.  

Jenny describes herself as a keen if somewhat haphazard cook, a reader, and enjoys walking & running in her spare time (at a leisurely pace). She has a degree in Law and a Masters in Human Resources Management. 
Heather Whoriskey, Detective Superintendent, Head of Safeguarding, North Yorkshire Police

Why did you join the service?
I have always had a passion to serve the public and this is a key driver in my life.  I believed that policing can help those who are most in need and also to reduce the risk that offenders cause to communities.  

Please summarise your career journey to date
I started my policing career in the Police Service of Northern Ireland where I served for 15 years.  I am fortunate to have had experience across a range of roles and departments.  Highlights were in the Child Protection Unit, public order team and being part of the team that set up the paramilitary crime task force to tackle paramilitary groups in NI.  I transferred across to West Yorkshire Police as the D/Inspector in the Serious & Organised Crime Unit.  On promotion to DCI, I had the privilege to lead the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team working to secure convictions for complex murder investigations before moving to the role of force deputy authorising officer.  I also spent time as the head of safeguarding in one of the districts.  On promotion to d/superintendent I was posted as head of intelligence and DFU.  For personal and family reasons I recently transferred to North Yorkshire Police as the head of safeguarding for the force.  It is a privilege to lead the force response to safeguarding and VAWG.

Throughout my career I have been passionate about diversity, equality and inclusion.  I was co-chair of the women’s network staff association in WYP and hold the national role of secretary for British Association for Women in Policing.  I am also an accredited senior investigating officer, authorising officer and silver public order commander.  

When did you become a superintendent and why did you seek promotion?
I was promoted to d/superintendent in January 2021.  I sought promotion as I believe that to be part of the change in policing there is greater scope to influence as a superintendent.

What have been the proudest moments of your career so far? 
Some of my proudest moments have been the convictions for child sexual abuse and murders and the support to some of our most vulnerable in society.  I am also immensely proud of working in areas of policing that may be less attractive to women and being that role model for others.  I believe if a 5’0” tall women with five young children who is also a carer for a family member can succeed in roles usually undertaken by men then anyone can do well in those roles.  Watching others I have coached and mentored flourish is so inspiring.  

How do you think policing could better embrace equity?
I absolutely believe there is a place for everyone in policing and that the wealth of experience and innovation that comes from a diverse workplace cannot be underestimated.  Confidence to have honest and difficult conversations is essential if we are to embrace equity and restore confidence in policing.  Policing must reflect our communities as that increases trust and legitimacy.  

Sara Crane, East Cornwall Local Policing Commander, Devon and Cornwall Police

Why did you join the service?
I wanted to help victims get justice and to make a difference positive difference to my community 

Please summarise your career journey to date
I completed my probation training in Newquay.  I worked on 24/7 response and neighbourhood policing, with a short stint in the Command and Control Centre until I became promoted to Sgt in 2004, as well has having 2 children and working part-time.  I worked as a Sgt in neighbourhood policing, during which time I had my third child and moved into Community Safety and Crime Prevention.  In 2014, I was promoted to inspector and in 2016 I was promoted to chief inspector.  I returned to full-time work, and after a year on 24/7 response policing I was then promoted to superintendent in Cornwall, and have worked in a number of roles since that time.  Recently, I was seconded to the National Police Coordination Centre as part of the policing response to COVID-19 leading the recovery and learning programme.

When did you become a superintendent and why did you seek promotion?
In 2017 I was promoted to superintendent – at the time I felt the superintending role suited my skills in terms of longer-term thinking, working at a strategic level, having a greater influence over policing and ultimately making a bigger impact on public service.   I also enjoy working with teams, and as a superintendent, I broadened my ability to work with others across many specialisms, as well as working with partners outside of policing to improve public service across the board.

What have been the proudest moments of your career so far?
In 2016 I received an award from the British Association for Women in Policing for my work in coaching and mentoring in Devon and Cornwall Police.  I was very pleased for the recognition and nomination from my line manager.

I’m also proud of my temporary promotion to C/Supt for OP Talla (the NPCC response to COVID 19), as the lead for COVID 19 recovery and reform, and receiving my long service medal within Devon and Cornwall Police in front of my family in 2015.

How do you think policing could better embrace equity?
I think policing could improve in many areas, from victim care and community liaison, to internal recruitment and promotion.  I think a focus on ensuring processes and practices are viewed through a lens of equality, diversity and inclusion and policing being flexible enough to respond to overcome the challenges.   Practically, awareness and training of all staff to be inclusive – improving policing both internally and out delivery to the public.