Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Work/life: Valerie Hester, Police Constable at Gatwick Airport

valerie-hester-police-constable.jpg

Valerie Hester, 34, is a police officer on the tactical firearms unit at Gatwick airport. She lives in Sussex with her husband, Bill, who is also a police officer

At different times depending which shift I’m on. It could be as early as 4:45am to be at Crawley police station, where I’m based, by 6am. I arm-up as soon as I arrive – I always carry a 9mm handgun and a taser, and often a G36C assault rifle (including the stab vest I wear, my kit weighs around 2st). Then I meet the rest of the team to debrief before our shift.

Preventing crime at Gatwick airport and the surrounding area. I patrol at the airport and do everything from arresting shoplifters and drunken passengers – such as one woman who had thrown her prosthetic leg at a flight attendant – to evacuating the airport in the event of a bomb threat. I’m also called out to assist neighbouring forces. 

In 2005. My mum worked for the police in an admin capacity and the stories she told me piqued my interest. I’ve done everything from street policing after the 2011 London riots to tracking burglary gangs. This year marks the centenary of the first female police constable – given that female officers weren’t even allowed to carry guns until 1988 (men were given restricted access to guns from 1884), it’s amazing how much the profession has changed in the past 100 years. 

Is geared towards counter-terrorism. I patrol with an explosives dog and keep an eye on persons of interest passing through the airport. I’ve dealt with bomb threats, but thankfully, so far they’ve all been hoaxes. Since August 2014 the UK threat level has been severe; an attack could occur at any time so vigilance is key. Events, such as those in Paris, highlight to me just how vital our work really is. 

Happened a month ago when I was called into a situation where a man was holding a gun to his girlfriend’s head. Along with three other firearms officers, I stormed into the block of flats where they lived to negotiate with the gunman. I don’t get nervous; I’ve had a lot of training – 10 weeks on firearms alone – and have 10 years’ experience in the force, so in pressure situations I often feel as if I’m on autopilot. Training takes over. In this instance, the woman came out of the flat first – willingly – then we persuaded the man to come out calmly, at which point I arrested him. The whole time I was poised in case he started shooting, but later we found that the gun he’d been using was actually a pellet-shooting gun. 

Is dealing with dead bodies. It’s not something you ever really get used to. I’ve been called to scenes where the person had died alone and no one had noticed for a long time, which is incredibly sad. Those cases really play on my mind. 

Is the team. We build strong bonds, and become more like family than colleagues. Because of the dangerous situations that we encounter, we have to have complete trust in each other. 

If I’ve been on an early shift, I might finish around 2pm and ride my horse, Darcy, in the afternoon. I used to do pentathlons and I still train when I get the chance. To do my job, I have to be fit, especially given the weight of the kit. If I’m on an early shift, I’ll be in bed by 9pm.


Words: Alexandra Jones  
Photography: Sarah Brimley

To read this week's issue of Stylist, download from app.stylist.co.uk

Related

ThinkstockPhotos-498379070.jpg

Do you work for one of the UK's 25 best companies?

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 15.22.19.png

Meet the woman Bear Grylls turns to for advice on staying alive

ThinkstockPhotos-486744242.jpg

Can you guess the 10 highest paying jobs in 2015?

Held Chocolate Bars.jpg

“My fingers itch if I am not creating”

lara12 alternative.jpg

Women in gaming

speak.jpg

Five wonderfully inspiring videos to empower you right now

women in leadership.jpg

Why are there so few women in leadership roles?

office-martry.jpg

Are you the office Martyr?

ThinkstockPhotos-484348046.jpg

Lucy Mangan on why we should all compliment our colleagues more

More

The best possible gifts for when flowers aren’t going to cut it

17 unusual and thoughtful gifts for when the s**t hits the fan

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This Battle of the Sexes legend wants you to STOP asking about McEnroe

“I would like to see John McEnroe win a Grand Slam tournament while pregnant”

by Susan Devaney
22 Sep 2017

“The real reason we should all be upset about Uber”

Grow up: your bank balance really isn’t what’s at stake here

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Sep 2017

There's a huge sherbet fountain coming to London - and it's free

Bompas & Parr are planning a weird, wonderful and nostalgia-filled event

by Helen Brown
22 Sep 2017

Rick and Morty creator responds to sexist trolling of female writers

The show hired four women. Cue cries of “Worst. Episodes. Evah.”

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

Everything you need to know about Uber being banned in London

The taxi firm has had its license revoked by TfL

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

The new Baileys flavour you’ll want to drink well beyond Halloween

Perfect autumn cocktails ahead

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This unexpected town has been voted the best place to work in the UK

We didn’t see this one coming

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

Harry Potter fans, this epic Hogwarts goblet is actually magical

It's perfect for Butterbeer (or prosecco)

by Megan Murray
22 Sep 2017

The hidden meanings behind the nation’s most popular baby names

Prepare for lots of girls’ names ending in ‘a’

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017