The po­lice

Woman & Home - - Influential Women -

“I be­came a po­lice­woman as I wanted to pro­tect the weak and vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety”

SARA THORN­TON, 54, is the head of the na­tional po­lice chief’s coun­cil, and the for­mer chief con­sta­ble of thames val­ley po­lice. she was awarded the queen’s po­lice medal (qpm) in 2006 for dis­tin­guished ser­vice, and a cbe in 2011. she is di­vorced with two grown-up sons and lives in lon­don.

Even af­ter more than 30 years with

the po­lice, there are still mo­ments that shock me. as a mother, i find is­sues in­volv­ing the abuse of chil­dren and young peo­ple very up­set­ting. dur­ing my time at thames val­ley, the ox­ford pae­dophile ring – where an es­ti­mated 370 girls were abused over 16 years – was one of the most chal­leng­ing things i have ever worked on. our job was to keep them safe, and i still re­flect on that – how could we have missed it for so long? the de­prav­ity of some peo­ple is shock­ing.

Fol­low­ing the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in manch­ester and lon­don, we’ve had a huge amount of feed­back from the public show­ing their ap­pre­ci­a­tion. i’ve al­ways known how fan­tas­tic po­lice of­fi­cers are, and the kind of com­pas­sion and warmth they need on a daily ba­sis, but the at­tacks have re­vealed that side to the wider public.

Crime has changed enor­mously in the past 10 years. the most re­cent crime sur­vey of eng­land and wales found there’s as much on­line crime now as off­line crime.

More than ever, the po­lice needs to work to­gether. the po­lice in the uk is very lo­cal – we are made up of 43 forces. the role of the na­tional po­lice chief’s coun­cil, which i’ve headed up

for the past two years, is for the dif­fer­ent forces to co­or­di­nate teams. for in­stance, af­ter the bomb­ing in manch­ester, we helped or­gan­ise more firearms po­lice and fam­ily li­ai­son of­fi­cers.

I be­came a po­lice­woman as i had a strong sense of want­ing to pro­tect weak and vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of so­ci­ety. i en­coun­tered ob­sta­cles as a woman when i was a more ju­nior of­fi­cer ris­ing through the ranks – sex­ist re­marks, for in­stance. when i was preg­nant with my first child, i re­mem­ber telling an­other sergeant that i was tak­ing six months ma­ter­nity leave. he asked me what on earth i was think­ing com­ing back, that a woman’s place is in the home. it’s fan­tas­tic that we now have women in the very top roles.

Men still dom­i­nate the armed units. but if you ask any po­lice of­fi­cer if they want to carry a gun, only the mi­nor­ity (about a quar­ter) do. the old ar­gu­ments about women not hav­ing the nec­es­sary brute force to deal with crime sim­ply aren’t true, as be­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer re­quires so many dif­fer­ent skills, such as deal­ing with vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple or tack­ling on­line is­sues.

Has be­ing a mother ever made me think i should be do­ing a dif­fer­ent job? no – i can hon­estly say it has never crossed my mind. my sons have never had any phys­i­cal con­cerns for my safety, ei­ther; it’s more that be­ing a po­lice­woman re­quires a lot of you. but they are hugely proud. i al­ways say that my two big­gest achieve­ments are my two fan­tas­tic sons and my ca­reer. when i re­ceived my

cbe from the queen, they were there.

To un­wind, i go run­ning, i cy­cle and spend quite a bit of time on the dorset coast walk­ing. i’m go­ing to do this job for two more years, and it will be my

last job in polic­ing. think­ing about my next chap­ter is hugely ex­cit­ing. w&h


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