When I joined the force I didn’t have a clear career path.
I had been a response officer for two or three years when I saw there were openings for trainee investigators in the child abuse unit, so I transferred and that’s where I learned my trade. The unit then expanded to take into account other areas of vulnerability – vulnerable adult abuse, modern day slavery, child sexual exploitation – which showed the evolution of the Public Protection Unit.
I always wanted to be a detective and deal with the most serious crimes, but I wasn’t in a position to do so until 2000. Up until that point I’d worked as a response officer, a local beat officer and in the town centre team, dealing with issues that arose there.
Since I became a detective 18 years ago, I’ve worked in a number of teams including the Major Crime Unit (MCU), Serious Crime Investigation Team, the Public Protection Unit, the Boson team and now the Emerald unit.
Sergeant Nicola Barlow-Cook has been with Bedfordshire Police for 23 years. She tells us what it’s like to lead the search for a missing person who is living with dementia…
On 13 February, at about 7.30pm, Bedfordshire Police Force Control Room (FCR) took a call from a man reporting his 80-year-old mother, Margaret, missing. Margaret and her friend travelled back to Bedford on the same bus but were then due to get on to separate busses to return to their respective addresses. Margaret did not arrive home.
I was alerted to Margaret’s case by the Force Control Room; Margaret had been deemed ‘high risk’ because her family suspected she had early stage dementia. She had not been seen for a number of hours, so it was vital that our search was methodical but that we acted as fast as possible. I took responsibility as Bronze Commander, which means I coordinated the search.