Theresa May celebrates women in policing and calls for greater diversity to tackle crime of today

British Transport PoliceTheresa May, Home Secretary, recently celebrated women in policing, but said “we must go further if we are going to ensure greater diversity, and truly modern police forces.”

Speaking at an event to mark the one hundred years since Edith Smith – Britain’s first ever female police constable with official powers of arrest – began patrolling the wartime streets of Grantham, May said more needs to be done for a diverse police force that understands and reflects its community to tackle the crimes of today.

Discussing policing in the days of Edith Smith May said: “Back then, policing really was a man’s world. And I am sorry to say that my own department was among the first to challenge the recruitment of female police officers. Shortly after Edith Smith’s appointment, the Home Office declared that women could not be sworn in as police officers because – and I quote – they were not deemed ‘proper persons’.

“Well, I’m not sure what those Home Office officials would say now to having a female Home Secretary!”

According to May there are currently over 35,000 female officers in England and Wales making up 28.2% of all police officers. This figure is up from 25.7% in 2010. The proportion of women in senior ranks of Chief Inspector and above has also risen in the past five years.

“And there are now more female officers at Chief Officer rank. 100 years on, I wonder what those first trailblazing women would think if they were here now among women who occupy some of the most senior positions in policing today,” added May.

Looking back overtime May said these are “women who have overcome obstacles, difficulties and resistance. Women who have triumphed against the odds, winning over their male colleagues, and demonstrating their professionalism and bravery. Women doing extraordinary things, but who I expect if you asked, would say they were only doing their job.”

She said that despite having come a long way, in the past 100 years, “we must go further if we are going to ensure greater diversity, and truly modern police forces. And we must do so not only because of the talents and skills both men and women from a range of backgrounds can bring to policing. Nor simply to ensure police forces properly reflect the communities they serve.

“But because if we are to meet the challenges policing faces in the future, then we need a diverse range of police officers adept at tackling not only traditional crimes, but many of the other crime types we are seeing.”

police motorbike policeMay mentioned the Direct Entry and Police Now which aim to recruit police with new skills and of greater diversity.

This year of those who started on the Direct Entry superintendent scheme, half are women and a sixth are from an ethnic minority background. And for external candidates starting their fast track to inspector training this year, 46% were women and 23% were from an ethnic minority background.

The current inspector rank of officers that are women is 19% and those from an ethnic minority background are 4%.

May said: “Similarly, we are seeing great results from Police Now. This year Police Now received over 2,000 applications, with just under half from women, and just under a fifth from people from black or ethnic minority backgrounds.”

“So while the overall numbers for those schemes are small, they show just what can be done through innovation and new approaches to bring in people from a greater range of backgrounds.”

She concluded: “We know that policing remains a popular choice for women. And I am delighted the British Association of Women in Policing (BAWP) is doing so much to support women in police forces across the UK. I know the currentBAWP President – Temporary Chief Constable Dee Collins – cannot be with us today. But I want to take this opportunity to thank the BAWP for their tremendous work in looking at what more can be done to improve police diversity, retain female police officers, and support flexible career paths for women to senior ranks and specialisms.

“Policing today offers women an exciting career – there are varied, interesting and fast paced roles where women – and men – can really make a difference.”

George Osbourne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced in the Spending Review last week that over the course of this Parliament the overall police budget will not be cut but protected. May said: “That protection will help provide financial certainty and security.”

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