Saturday, 13 March 2010

Equality in the Police

This weeks Police Review asks the question, are women getting a fair deal in the promotion stakes? It is a fair question when 30% of recruits are now women but women in the senior ranks account for less than 10% of officers. The main conclusion of the article was to suggest that the police service needs to provide more flexible working for women officers. I think it is far more complex than that and not a situation peculiar to the police.

There are still far more applications from men to join the police than women but there are also far more potential recruits than jobs. The police could recruit 50% or more women but this would inevitably involve unlawful positive discrimination. South Wales is currently recruiting 54% and I question how they are lawfully achieving this. The fact is that the role is more attractive to men than women and I don't think this has anything to do with promotion prospects.

The police service has become introspective more than any other public service with regard to equality and ensuring fairness for all. Quite rightly, part time working was introduced in 1992 and flexible working and career breaks soon followed, giving men and women the opportunity to continue working while bringing up a family.

When I review officers flexible working requests, inevitably, they want to work from Monday to Friday between 8 am and 6 pm because that is what suits them and their child care. Little consideration seems to be given to the fact that policing is a 24/7 operation and our peak demands are evenings, particularly weekends. We cannot accommodate 10% or more of officers working Monday to Friday, day shifts when there is little demand at these times. I would also suggest that this is hardly fair on the remaining officers who have to work more anti social hours and who have less support when they are working. Flexible working needs to reflect this and if you want to remain operationally fit and ensure your career is not stalled, flexible working needs to include some evening and weekend work.

If you want a part time job at a supermarket they will tell you that there are jobs available after 4 pm when the store is busy with people shopping after school and work, and at weekends. If you cannot work those hours you won't get a job.

In my own Force we have recently had two female Chief Superintendents and an ACC. In every case these women have been supported by husbands whose own career has had to take a back seat while they have supported their wives and helped deal with many of the childcare issues so their wives can work the hours required to progress their careers to senior management.

The police service needs to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men in their careers and that part time and flexible working and career breaks are available to encourage women to stay in and return to work. That really is the end of their responsibility. The key to having more senior female officers is not allowing more women to work 9 to 5 in a busy operational 24/7 organisation, or to take career breaks and expect to return in exactly the same position as a colleague who has been working. The key surely is that more women who want families and also to achieve careers in senior management need to be having discussions at home with husbands or partners and asking for that support for their career and not allowing it to take a back seat while bringing up the family and supporting their partners. Unless you want family or nanny's to bring up your children, one or both parents needs to do this and it will inevitably curtail some career opportunities in almost any business.
You cannot both have your cake and eat it!


  1. Unfortunately this is about sensible thinking - i.e. with a sensitivity to the situation in which one finds oneself. Responding to the world as it is. Marxism, in all its forms, which is the root of that which you complain of is fundamentally different in it's approach to life, whereby a theory is devised for how life should be lived, and then the world is changed to fit that theory. Sense - the capacity to assess a situation and to respond to it - is not a part of the Marxist mindset and it is a mistake to expect sense in situations where Marxist thinking is prevalent. And the influential strata of British society is pretty well shot through with a Marxist mindset, albeit not flying it's colours at the front of the parade. Sadly it's a situation which can only be challenged or endured - it will never "come to it's senses", however erudite or articulate the arguments in favour of such a change.

  2. As a male, I want to see women get true equality in every walk of life, including the police. However, with equal opportunity comes equal responsibility.

    We also need to look at the real story. 30% of recruits are women, but only 10% of senior management jobs are held by females. And?

    New recruits don't go straight into an SMT job. The people in the senior positions will have 10-20 years service (or more) so we need to look at the proportion of women recruited 10-20 years ago. However, some will have left and I don't know the rate of attrition of men vs women.

    Perhaps we should look at the number of people in the force with 10-20 years service and see what proportion of them are women. If it's about 10%, then things are about right. If fewer than 10% of the long-servers are women, women get a better deal than expected. Otherwise, otherwise.

    Of course, it's even more complicated than that. Men tend to be more competetive than women, on average. Yes, there are some very competetive women but a lower proportion than in men. It's a hormonal (testosterone) thing - in part.

    Of course, in the 10-20 years service, we shouldn't include maternity leave. I fully believe that a woman should have the right to maternity leave, but that some of it should be transferrable, with mutual consent, to the father. The maternity/paternity leave should be pensionable. Yes, the woman should have the right to the same level job back but can't really count the maternity leave as experience on the job - unless their profession is nursery nurse.

    We need true equality of opportunity, but some people will not choose to take those opportunities. Perhaps PC Smith would be happy as Sgt Smith but not as Insp Smith. If there isn't a gender difference (and no, I don't know which way it would go) I'd be very surprised.

  3. I applied for South Wales Police over ten years ago and was told they would take the top 200 applicants from the police initial recruitment tests,but would welcome applications from women and ethnic minorities. I passed the test but had a letter with the score a no thank you. Yet a girl I went to school with was accepted with a lower score!! Having spoken to colleagues in the Met who have transfered home than back again I think I am lucky to be where I am. The probem promotion to higher ranks is not one of gender but the comprmises you have to make. after Inspector its about boards and you have to fit in with the people already in the postion

  4. First time commenting here, though I'm a regular reader.

    The very last sentence of your post absolutely nails it, and it probably needs saying at all only because of the trendy view that children are a right, especially a woman's right. The reality is that they are nothing of the kind. To those who can't have kids they'll seem like a privilege rather than a right, and to those of us who've simply avoided any they seem more like a bullet that's been ducked. The bottom line is that having kids is almost always a choice and if someone cannot see in advance that making that choice must necessarily involve compromise in other parts of life then they're probably too ****ing stupid to be a parent.

  5. I met quite a lot of resistance when I wanted women in the tac firearms unit. Not for equality reasons, but for practical ones. In covert deployments it was occasionally a concern deploying men in pairs as they tended to stand out, to a surveillance aware adversary, more than a male/female couple might. Any covert jobs in gay mens hangouts we could cope with, but anything else would be difficult. Also, we occasionally had vip's to look after who were female. To my mind, female officers were practically/tactically advantageous yet I got any number of obstructive reasons why this was not a good thing. (My responses are shown in brackets):
    "Hands too small for our pistols" (OK, we get smaller grips)
    "But its a big framed pistol" (We get a different one).
    "Our Armourer will have odd weapons to maintain". (Yes, thats why he's an armourer isn't it?)
    "Our one piece coveralls won't allow them to have a pee without de-kitting" (How do YOU have a crap, then?). There were others but I think I've made my point.
    These were the sort of attitudes I was ready to tackle head on, but if I was fed the one about only being available for call-out between 8am and 4pm Monday to Friday because of child care arrangements...
    So was my department so different from the needs of mainstream policing?

  6. To Hogday:- you lost me a bit at the end there. Are you saying that the business about not wanting to work outside "normal" hours is a lame excuse being offered by those who oppose women in the Police generally? If so, surely anyone in your line of work might reasonably expect to be working when a job involving firearms was going on, wouldn't they? Man or woman?

    I have no direct knowledge of which identifiable groups may be more inclined to want 8-00 'til 5-00 hours but I'd have thought that whoever they were it would be a problem.

    The examples you cite are plainly situations where the context can be changed - different guns, different clothes etc. It's less obvious, to me at least how the situation could be altered to allow for people being totally absent in the evenings and nights.

  7. "I met quite a lot of resistance when I wanted women in the tac firearms unit. Not for equality reasons, but for practical ones."

    Which, let's face it, should be the only reason EVER to need a particular person of any specific age/colour/gender...

  8. Anon: No, I wasn't saying that, although things may be different in the handful of years I've been out of the job. In my old force, and many others, firearms teams(not armed response vehicles) were regular officers who did regular police jobs until required to bear firearms, hence the `call-out` requirement. Many forces now have full time units.

    JuliaM: Yesssssssss. Enforcing equality is so unpleasant and a sign of failed management.

  9. Quite simple
    Recruit ex Service Personnel. They have the mnaturity, they have the discipline,they are fire-armed trained, they will not think of themselves as social workers and they are used to working long and anti-social hours in difficult conditions (and their families understand this) They are trained to think for themselves in difficult situations.
    Not only that very very few of them aspire to become Chief Constables

  10. This seems really odd - My sister is a nurse and when the children were at primary school ,she worked part time, 3 permanent nights every week 8pm to 6am This was fantastic as she came home to give the children breakfast, took them to school and got her head down for 6 hours. Now I have primary school aged children, I would love to be in a job where I could do the same. Surely this could also be accommodated by the police force and there are police officers who feel the same way?

    I would agree with Angry exile when they say that there are compromises involved in becoming a parent. It's just that parents are both male and female but the compromises often seem to disproportionately affect the female parent. I work part time because my husband earns more so economically and for the family as a whole, that makes the most sense. Doesn't always make it easy to accept personally (I have downgraded 2 roles in my job to go part time to ensure the best balance we can for the children and I know it is the right choice for the family as a whole but I am the only one who is bored at work!)


  11. At some point the overall effectiveness of the police became less important than having it staffed by certain types of people. For example, at the moment, it's politically important to have lots of Muslim officers. 10 years ago our political masters needed lots of black officers. In 10 years time we might need obese officers. Who knows.

    The increasing number (as a percentage) of women police officers has been one of the most striking things about police recruitment in the last 20 years. This is partly because of changing attitudes, but it's mainly because being a police officer is essentially a clerical/sedentary occupation where skills like personal organisation have become more important than traditional theif taking.

    I remember speaking to a female officer who had just become pregnant and was upset about going off the street and working in the 'domestic violence support office' aka the place where we put people who can't do anything else. I told her, 'Are you kidding? Get your feet under the table, come up with a few initiatives and you'll never have to put on a utility belt or have to work past 1700hrs ever again throughout your whole career and you'll be getting the same money as me.'

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