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Number of women in police force doubles

The number of women in Thames Valley Police (TVP) has almost doubled in 30 years and the force used International Women’s Day (Friday) as an opportunity to recognise the rise of female officers and staff.

In 2019 the percentage of women officers, staff and police community support

officers (PCSO) in TVP stands at 45 per cent, but in 1989 that number was just 23 per cent.

Although this progress is ‘wonderful’, brand recruitment manager Mrs Caroline Cookson said: “I don’t think we’ve completely cracked it.

“We are still encouraging females to join the force and trying to get out the message that there are opportunities to specialise or to gain promotion that are just as available now to women as they are to men.”

She said that a lot of progress has been made in the last 30 years in women’s equality but black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups are still under-represented.

Mrs Cookson said: “If we could see that kind of progression across those minority groups then we would really be beginning to truly reflect the communities that we serve and as a force.

“I would say Thames Valley is putting a lot of energy into trying to get as diverse a force as we can.”

Superintendent Bhupinder Rai, head of Force CID, has been in the police for 27 years and said things have improved ‘hugely’ for women since she joined aged 22.

She said: “I would say it’s probably one of the best workplaces for a woman.”

Supt Rai is well aware that there is still a lot of work to be done to improve the intersectionality of BAME women in policing, which she says ‘has its unique challenges, but not ones which are insurmountable’.

She said: “There are crimes that disproportionately affect women, and there are crimes that disproportionately affect BAME women.

“I think that it’s really important to have people within the service who understand how those communities work, understand what it’s like for women in those communities and are able to engender that trust and confidence and empathy, and that real subconscious understanding of what’s going on and to be able to tailor our response in a way that is the right response for those victims.”

The LGBT community is a group that over the last few years has been increasingly represented at TVP, helped by 30 lesbian and gay liaison officers (LAGLO).

LAGLO and uniform sergeant Steph Welsh joined the force 15 years ago. She said that the LGBT officers and staff are ‘able to be their true selves and to come to work and be authentic with that’.

This includes transgender officers, some of whom have chosen to transition while in the force.

Sgt Welsh said: “Certainly I feel International Women’s Day is quite important for

the LGBT community in so far as our trans, who’ve changed from male to

female, that they’re recognised on this day.”

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