It’s easy to binge-watch episodes of Luther or True Detective and think you know what being in the police is like. But having what it takes to really keep London safe is a different matter altogether. We caught up with five amazing women working in the Metropolitan Police to find out what their roles entail…
There are certain phrases you associate with a career in the police: honour, uniform, macho environment and walking the beat.
But what about some others like: the magic of unpredictability, dream job, humanity and emotion.
As the Met celebrates 100 years of women in the force, we asked five real policewomen why they chose their Met careers.
Below they explain what makes their day jobs so unique, what they’ve learnt on patrol and why working to protect the streets of London is their dream job…
The Specialist Firearms Officer
Inspector Anna Bearman, 37
Anna works in SCO19, a specialist department comprising trained authorised firearm officers (or AFOs) who support unarmed colleagues in London, responding to firearm calls and otherwise dangerous incidents, and patrol the capital in Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs).
“I started out as a PC in Camden. The 7/7 attacks were a massive part of my career – we were the first on scene at Russell Square.
There were lots of injured and dead people – it was incredibly hard to deal with. There was no mental preparation for coping with something like that.
We repeatedly had to walk a mile through the Tube tunnel and carry people back up to ground level, without stretchers or working radios.
I’m so glad we equip our officers so they can respond to attacks better now - logistically and emotionally.
I’ve noticed how much more emphasis there is on emotional intelligence as part of the working culture now, compared with even 10 years ago. That really inspires me.
There’s a real focus on looking out for and supporting each other, as well as after-care for the officers attending tragedies like the 7/7 attacks.
“I was recently promoted to Inspector for Engagement, Communications & Armouries in the Specialist Firearms Command SCO19.
Firearms has changed massively – it’s not the macho environment you might think it is. Everyone’s worked hard to be there with all the training needed, so it’s a very professional and empowering place to be.
The number of female officers in our teams has increased significantly in recent years and we’re always striving to improve.
I have a 20-month-old at home, so I currently work part-time – I’m also having my second baby next month, so I’m about to go on maternity leave. The Met has come on leaps and bounds with flexible working.
We have fantastic senior female officers as role models and a generation of leaders who understand that family is important, so they do what they can to support that.”
The Family Liaison Lead
Detective Inspector Kate Kieran, 43
Kate currently leads the Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) assigned to the Grenfell Tower fire investigation. FLOs are specially trained and deployed to support bereaved families throughout police procedures and investigations.
“Deployed since day one, I’ve managed my team as they worked on behalf of the coroner to identify the deceased in the Grenfell Tower fire. We also work with the bereaved families through the coronial process of identification and repatriation.
I’m responsible for working with external partners within the community to offer a joined-up response to the Grenfell tragedy and ensure the police response is appropriate while maintaining impartiality as we continue the investigation.
Looking after my team who’ve helped families identify the deceased and provide evidence for the coroner has been an amazing privilege.
I started my police career in the borough of Croydon in 2002, but I knew I wanted to be a police officer back when I was 15 years old, thanks to a week’s work experience.
I had to travel for over an hour across London to arrive at the police station for 6am. It didn’t matter. I knew instantly that I wanted to be part of this team; a team that at its heart wanted to help those who needed it.
Although I’m gay, my sexuality has never been turned against me once in my 17 years working at the Met, which is testament to those before me breaking down barriers.
Throughout my career, I’ve had many different roles. For the London 2012 Olympics, I managed a national debrief of officers involved in the 7/7 bombings to capture learnings from them.
This formed the basis of my preparedness plan for the Olympics, which I worked with colleagues to deliver national training for all forces.
We went on site visits, which was really important – if something major happened we’d seen the site beforehand and knew how it worked.
This also meant we visited several sites before the public, which was amazing.
I’m really sporty and I remember the day it was announced we’d won the Olympics. I was shouting out with excitement.
“After the Olympics, I went back to a more operational role in 2013 on Roads and Transport policing.
I was one of the leads, working with the British Transport Police and TfL on a tri-party agreement for Operation Guardian, which looked at options for tackling sex offenders on London’s transport network.
This operation won an award at London’s Problem-Orientated Policing awards.
But Grenfell Tower has by far been the most emotional and difficult work I’ve ever done. The policing effort across all strands makes me the proudest I’ve ever been to be a cop.”
The Detective Trainer
Detective Constable Darcia Babb, 41
Darcia works in Learning and Development, leading on family liaison training. She also trains new detectives on the complex interviewing course.
“The murder of [black teenager] Stephen Lawrence was my main motivation for becoming a police officer. I was 16 at the time of his death and the impact on the black community was incredibly negative.
Why would I want to join an organisation labelled as institutionally racist? It was my belief that to make a change, you need to be the change.
I’m extremely proud of the course I’ve put together for training family liaison officers, which was one of the roles strongly criticised in the Macpherson Report [the public inquiry prompted by Lawrence’s death that labelled the Metropolitan Police ‘institutionally racist’].
“I’ve definitely seen more black officers in the Met since I joined. I see more ethnic minorities in training school, too.
Recently, Commissioner Cressida Dick stated the Met should reflect the community it serves. We have some way to go, but I believe that family liaison training has vastly improved since the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.
My role is challenging, but incredibly rewarding. I’ve now trained close to 200 FLOs (Family Liaison Officers).
Alongside family liaison, I also train the new trainee detectives on the serious and complex interviewing course. This is a compulsory 2-week course for any officers wanting to become detectives.
Sometimes when officers attend the training, they come with the viewpoint that suspects are another entity.
It’s important to realise that we’re all human and need to treat everyone with respect. It’s a really important part of the interview process.
They may be innocent – you don’t know their story, where they’ve come from, or what’s happened to have brought them in front of you.
When I train the new detectives, it’s incredibly satisfying to see their progress during the course. I see an improvement in their confidence in their ability to obtain details from victims, witnesses and suspects.”
The Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Officer
Police Constable Mara Biandolino, 42
Mara is an Authorised Firearms Officer (AFO) in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection team, whose role is to provide security for London’s diplomatic community and the parliamentary estate in Westminster.
“I love my job because it’s so unpredictable – I’m not sitting at a computer and just looking at a screen.
I meet and deal with different people every day. I get to understand people of different ages, genders and races; this helps me provide a better service to members of the public.
When I arrive for work in the morning, we get the briefings, then we get the weapons and go on post.
“I spend my day at either Parliament or Downing Street. We work day and night shifts, normally 12 hours long, but with breaks.
Working where I do, you have to be extremely vigilant. With all the risks and dangers involved, it’s not easy, but it is a great role.
I’m also a specially trained Home Office licensed search officer. So, for example, when there’s an event that the Queen or the Royal Family attends, we visit and search the venue to make sure the area is safe.
We also help on cases involving high-risk missing persons, where we might carry out an in-depth search of an area to find any possible evidence that could be useful in relation to the case.
I’ve been in the Met for seven years. I come from an Italian family with a strong background in firearm policing.
I just remember that there were three things I wanted to do when I was little: speak English, be a police officer, and go to New York.
I’ve managed to do all three. Because English was not my first language, I had to study a lot harder to gain all the skills I needed in this career, but I felt a great sense of satisfaction when I did.
My language skills have come in handy too, like when Arsenal played Napoli in 2013. I was translating for the Italian police all day.
I’m only 5ft tall, so being a small build has been challenging at times.
I’m an Authorised Firearm Officer (AFO) and when I did the training course, I’d never picked up a weapon before.
I’ve got small hands too, so when I first started, I didn’t exactly struggle but I had to practice with the weapons a bit to get used to them.
I was determined to get to the end of the course because I really wanted to become a firearm officer.
I love what I do. It’s a lot of responsibility. I’ve moved on from being a police officer on the beat dealing with shoplifters or fights, but it’s a move that I was ready for.”
The Response Team Leader
Police Sergeant Stevie Bull, 28
Stevie is a sergeant on the response team, supporting officers responding to 999 emergency calls.
“When it comes to 999 calls, we deal with a huge range of emergencies – if you can think of something, we’ve probably had a call about it.
The PCs don’t know what they’re going out to, so part of my job is motivating the team and keeping them going when things get difficult and unpredictable. We can work early shifts, late shifts or nights.
I really enjoy helping and protecting victims – that’s been an important part of my career. And when people say thank you and you don’t expect it, it makes your day.
I started at the Met in July 2014, and worked in neighbourhood policing.
I particularly loved the excitement of running in the door at warrants.
I enjoyed the process of putting a drug warrant together, doing all the intelligence, going to the court to get the warrant, then the adrenaline rush because you’re running in the door early in the morning with no idea what you’re going to come across.
I got into this career because I’d always wanted to be a police officer. I saw the Met recruitment and just went for it. At the time I was a single parent, so I had one child when I started.
It was pretty tough in the beginning, but I’m pretty determined and I enjoyed the job, so I just got on with it.
I’m now a mother of two with support from a partner. I used my maternity leave with my second child to study for my sergeant’s exam.
When I came back after maternity leave, I had a great supervisor, so I was very lucky. When I was breastfeeding, I could go into a room and express, then get back to it and carry on with my day.
I also had people on the job who’d help me out by taking my place quickly, if I needed it.
Now I’m a sergeant, I’ve taken on more responsibility. I do a mixture of desk work in more of a supervising role, as well sometimes being out with the PCs as they respond to 999 calls. We make the charging decisions for those in custody, too.
I’m still finding my feet with my management style. I’d like to think I’m approachable and friendly, but firm.
In my downtime, I’m also a member of the Metropolitan Police Choir. We perform regularly at all of the events, from the long service ceremony for police officers to Christmas concerts.
We sing everything from ‘Skyfall’ to classical pieces by Handel, and we even have our own Instagram page!”