PC Esther Carroll joined Bedfordshire Police in 2002 and has committed her policing career to protecting vulnerable victims of domestic abuse, honour based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. She has received two Chief Constable’s Commendations for her Forced Marriage investigations and a ‘True Honour’ award by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Right Organisation.
Esther is retiring this month and she took some time to reflect on her incredible career and contribution to the force.
Before I joined the police I tried a number of career paths, Although they weren’t what I was looking for in my life, the experience definitely helped me with being the best police officer I can be.
I have extensive experience in hospitality as years ago I used to run a pub. Working with different types of people and unusual hours, being an excellent negotiator when dealing with difficult customers; all these experiences helped me engage with victims as well as offenders in my policing career.
When I was younger I trained to become a nurse, but I never completed my training. I was a support worker at disability charity Mencap for 10 years, where I worked with vulnerable people suffering from severe learning difficulties and struggling with mental health issues. I think even then I knew that I wanted to be there for people who are the most in need.
When I joined the force, at the age of 36, my experience in running a pub as well as with vulnerable people and being a mum was extremely valued by my supervisors and colleagues.
I spent the beginning of my career in response, before being moved to auto crime investigations. I am not going to lie, it was not my thing at all! I was always a ‘victims’ police officer. I wanted to help people, so I asked to be moved back to response, where I stayed until 2006.
I was one of the officers on duty when PC Jon Henry was killed. This was one of the most difficult moments of my career as Jon was a close friend of mine. I remember when all the officers, then on duty, were sent home.
Bedfordshire Police were amazing in offering support to us and made the return to work as easy as possible in extremely difficult circumstances. As me and another officer were a bit older than the other ones in the team, we returned to work a bit earlier, almost as the work ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ to be there to support the other PCs.
After PC Henry’s death I was placed at what was then called the Domestic Violence Unit based in Luton.
This is where I found myself and where I could finally use my skills and experience. Back then there was no honour based abuse (HBA) standard training for police officers on how to spot signs of things like HBA, forced marriages and other harmful practices. PC Michelle Webb, who is now retired, and I recognised this alarming gap and we decided to commit ourselves to helping the victims of harmful practices.
We have developed full HBA packs for our officers so evidence can be secured as soon as possible, as those kind of cases are difficult to investigate.
I always felt a level of connection with survivors of domestic abuse and the ability to empathise with them helped me build the rapport needed to take them out of a place of danger and give them the support they needed to re-build their lives. The survivors I meet throughout the years remind me of how strong a person can be.
My career with the force has certainly been a memorable one. When I started, the awareness of harmful practices just wasn’t there. It was a massive taboo and something nobody wanted to talk about.
We have worked tirelessly to bring HBA and other harmful practices to the forefront of Bedfordshire Police’s priorities.
I was invited to be on the board at the Forced Marriage Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office where I worked with so many amazing people to make a difference – and I think I did. I made my policing career about helping those who were overlooked, who needed our support and help.
Being a police officer means different things for different people. It really is what you want to make of it. Our force offers so many different career paths you can take. You can commit your service to working with vulnerable victims like I did, or you can take a completely different path.
PC Esther Carroll is also a passionate motorbike rider and will take part in the PC Andrew Harper Ride of Respect alongside thousands of other bikers at the end of September.
We are recruiting police officers – to find out more and apply visit our website.