“I’m a member of the public who has had a chance to make a difference…”

I wanted to join the Specials in 1986 after I’d done my national service back in Italy, so I applied… but then I got a job as a Chef. I’ve worked in the hospitality trade since then and have owned and managed restaurants and cafes and I love it. But in the back of my mind, thoughts about joining the police have always been there.

About 15 years ago someone suggested I think about joining the Specials again, as a sort of ‘try before you buy’ to see if I wanted to join the regulars. So I did apply and was successful. You do need to be pretty dedicated with the training as it takes up your evenings and some weekends, but people across the force are so helpful and if someone can help you, they will.

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Being transgender – “it’s not something you can catch or pass on!”

Paula Collins
Paula Collins

I experience some sort of abuse on an almost daily basis whenever I walk out of the door of my house, simply for not wanting to live a lie and for wanting to live my life expressing my true gender identity.

I’ve been shouted at, spat at, had a brick thrown at me and been hit on the head, punched and pushed off of a stool in a bar. But I will not let people beat me. I’ve already lost 40 years of my life trying to conform to societal norms of ‘binary gender’, of living in the body I was born, despite my brain and my whole inner saying it did not match the gender identity I needed to be.

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What 40 years in force looks like

blog2I joined the force in 1976 when female officers were known as Women Police Constables (WPCs). It was a completely different era Life on Mars was quite accurate. Although WPCs were allowed on section, which was a fairly new way of working, we were still tasked with dealing with ‘women’s issues’, which involved dealing with any female or child victims. There were very few women in the force, in fact it was a rarity to have one on each section and when I joined I was the only woman on my intake.

WPCs had to wear skirts; there were no trousers, a box style hat, double breasted jacket and a cape, which didn’t keep you warm or dry at all. It was quite different from the heavy kit officers have to carry around today. Female officers were also given a long handled handbag to carry their small custom made truncheons.

I remember it being said ‘it would probably be best to keep it in the handbag and swing the handbag if you needed protection, the only use the truncheon would be for is breaking windows.’ The men were given much longer and more suitable truncheons.

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