17 September 2019
As today marks the Women in Armed Policing Conference I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about what it is like being a female firearms officer.
Events like this are important. It brings colleagues together to talk about their experiences along with any of the challenges that need to be overcome.
I started my career in policing in the Metropolitan Police Service in a response team but seeing some of my team members switch over to the firearms unit, witnessing them responding to jobs on my patch, I thought to myself it looked like a challenge but at the same time fast-paced and exciting.
Soon I was chatting with them to find out more about the role and soon learnt there are actually a lot of opportunities to develop your career down this path with an array of different courses available. Before I knew it, I was starting my training and the rest is history.
The trouble when I joined is there weren’t any female insight or recruitment days designed for women; where officers can be shown around the car, see the kit and carry it as well as ask any questions about the role then having a shot at the fitness test without any feeling of being judged by male counterparts. Things have come a long way since then and now I feel there are no barriers in the MPS to stop women from becoming firearms officers.
I would say the role is physically harder for women, as is any physical job - including being in a response team, but it’s personal responsibility and pride which drives you to ensure you keep fit and are prepared at all times for any incident which you may be called out to.
Many women in the Met’s Armed Policing Unit have been there for more than 10 years and continue to develop - some becoming course instructors whilst some are mothers and have returned from maternity to yet again achieve the fitness requirements which is a testament to their commitment. This is certainly not easy to do whilst raising a family, but many have proven you can do it and it is achievable thought family support as well as support of the department to allow extra gym time.
For a woman already with children looking to join, I can imagine the 10-week course could be difficult to juggle. Again, support is given throughout the course but it’s how you manage your family life.
I think my force is bending over backwards in the recruitment of women into this role, but I am aware in other forces more work probably needs to be done.
All in all, it is a challenging role which comes with a lot of pressures -being able to make incredibly important choices in a split-second – but it is so rewarding and exciting and I encourage any female colleagues who are considering a change to come along to an insight day.
**Because of the nature of her role, we have protected the officer's identity.