3 September 2019
Having appreciated the support of the Federation when facing difficulties at work, Charlie Watson has now become a workplace representative with the aim of helping colleagues.
Charlie, who is a Safer Neighbourhood Team officer at Cotton Lane, recalls when during a particularly tough time at work she felt the only person she could trust was her Fed rep.
So, when Derbyshire Police Federation held its latest elections for three vacant positions on its Branch Council, Charlie decided to stand and was elected by colleagues along with the other two successful candidates, Helen Gallear and Adam Galley.
“I put myself forward so that I could help people who have been in situations like myself, someone who just needed that friend to listen to and to put things into perspective. I want to help those who sometimes aren’t strong enough to help themselves. I have been through some ups and downs in my life and come out the other side, hopefully a stronger and better person and having taken some learning from each situation. Hopefully, I can pass on my experiences to others in need,” she explains.
“I certainly hope to be able to support colleagues. I am a good listener, I am not afraid to stand up for what I feel is right and challenge those who need to be challenged.”
Charlie admits that when she first joined the Fed she did so more out of a fear than anything else. She says: “If I am honest, I joined because on my first weeks in the job someone from the Federation came to give us an input and bamboozled me, terrifying me with the possibility that I would be on my own if something went wrong in the job.”
However, she has since found that the Federation is not just there for when officers are facing conduct proceedings.
“At my times of need, they were there for me and I would now like to put something back and be there to help others. The Derbyshire Federation comprises of some excellent officers of all ranks who are always there. However, should you find yourself in a spot of bother and you are one of the few who are not a member of the Federation; you may live to regret it,” Charlie adds.
Now with almost 17 years’ service under her belt, Charlie was working in an office after completing her A Levels when, with no scope for promotion, she applied to join the police without telling anyone other than her then partner. She had always wanted to be a police officer but had previously been talked out of applying by her Mum who saw the dangers of the role and was concerned for her only child.
Charlie clearly had the makings of a good officer, recalling: “Surprisingly, I flew through every stage and found myself in a room with another 30 strangers on my first day wondering what the hell I had done.”
She went on to spend her first years on the same shift at St Marys Wharf, taking nine months’ maternity leave when she became pregnant in 2009. She returned on response on the same shift at St Mary’s Wharf for several years before moving to Derby City Safer Neighbourhood Team, passing her Sergeants’ Part 1 and Part 2 exams and then spending 18 months as Temporary Sergeant. Her next position was a PC role on the Pro-Active Unit at St Marys Wharf between 2015 – 2018 when she then took on her latest post where she does act up as sergeant periodically. Since 2016, Charlotte has also been a drug expert officer.
Her most regular contact with the Federation has been through her work-life balance annual review but she also had support from the Fed when facing difficulties with a line manager which resulted in her being off work for a period of time with anxiety.
“At that time, I was not in a good place and, if I am honest, the only person I trusted who I was willing to speak to was my Federation officer,” she says.
Despite the support she has received, she does believe the Federation has to work to instil confidence in members who have lost their faith in the organisation, seeing themselves paying a monthly subscription but not necessarily seeing anything in return. Issues around pensions have been a particular blow, Charlie believes.
Looking beyond the Federation, Charlie says a challenge for the Force will be logistics around the 20,000 extra officers promised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson while the ever-evolving world of criminality, for example, modern day slavery, cyber-crime, extremism and terrorism, will also put a strain on forces as will retaining officers.
She concludes: “I think the challenges the Force and policing in general face overlap. In addition to what I have already mentioned, I am concerned with the introduction of the new entry routes to policing that require you to hold a degree. I believe that a degree is a sign of intelligence but not necessarily common sense or hard work. Being a police officer requires you to be multi-talented, but two things you need for sure are good communication skills and common sense and you don’t necessarily need a degree to have those skills.”