On the Beat with the Met Police

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Do you ever long for a career that's more interesting, challenging and worthwhile? Stylist met three women who found their dream jobs with the Met Police – click the video below to find out more.

Nailah Sharif, 30, is a detective constable in the Criminal Investigation Department at Merton Borough police. She tells Stylist what she loves about solving crimes.

“A while ago, I was a victim of a crime. It’s a hard thing to go through but the officer that dealt with my case was amazing – he became my role model. That’s when I decided what I wanted to do with my life: become a detective. Ten years ago, I started on the beat, where I was quickly recognised for my linguistic skills – I speak five different languages – and was moved to a case-progression unit, which deals with low-level crimes, such as shoplifting and common assault. I had a high record of success for solving these crimes and was asked to join the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), where I have worked for eight years. I deal with the major crimes that come into the CID, from GBH or serious sexual assault to fraud and attempted murder.


Every day is unpredictable. I couldn’t tell you what’s going to happen in the next half an hour. That can be hard at times – you never know where you’re going to be at any given time, so it can affect your social life. But that’s part of the excitement. No day is the same. I spend half my time at my desk and the other half out and about, doing things like speaking to victims and checking CCTV footage. It keeps you on your toes and I love it.


Some people assume that being an Asian woman presents a challenge if you are in the police, but any challenges I encountered came from my community rather than the police. Some people laughed at me because I’m small and I also encountered hostility from some people about my decision to join, but that only made me more determined. I thought, ‘The way to change things is from the inside,’ and that thought has never left me. I had one case of a Pakistani schoolboy who was beaten up – it was the biggest thing that had ever happened to him and he wanted to change colleges and move house. He didn’t want to talk to the police, though, and his father didn’t seem to take me seriously at first when I tried to encourage it. So I spoke to the boy one-on-one and told him, ‘If you don’t take this opportunity now, you will let other things go in your life.’ I managed to get him to give me a statement and I arrested and charged the perpetrator. I went with the victim and helped him in court and told him it would be OK. You could see him flourishing. He got me a card to say thank you, saying I changed his life. His dad congratulated me for being so mbrave and for being a female Pakistani officer. He also wanted his son to become a special constable, so he could help people like I had helped them.


The hardest thing about the job is knowing a victim is relying on me. It becomes an obsession – I’ve got to do everything in my power to make the victim safe and happy. That’s a lot of pressure and it’s what I sometimes lose sleep over. Last night I was up at 1am making a to-do list, because I need to always feel sure that I’m doing everything I can for the victims of the crimes I’m working on, to the very best of my ability. So it can be tough. And there are sleepless nights. But to be able to say I’m working for the best police service there is, and knowing that’s the role model my five-year-old daughter has, makes it all worthwhile.”

Sophie Hanson, 34, is a police constable on the emergency response team at Richmondupon-Thames Borough. She talks to Stylist about her role in London's police service.

“I’ve been a police officer for 18 months, despite never originally planning on it as a career. I used to work in a commercial environment and decided to volunteer as a special constable for two reasons: mainly, I liked the idea of giving something back, but I also wanted to gain the skills that the role teaches you. First aid, self-defence, assertiveness, self-confidence – they’re all things I knew would benefit me both in my personal life and my previous job. Then, quite soon after I started volunteering, I had this defining moment that made me realise this was the job for me. I helped resolve quite a serious incident involving children and I remember thinking, if I can make this much difference on one shift as a volunteer, how much could I do as a full-time police officer? There was no going back after that.


There are many ways I feel that I make a difference in my role. Firstly, keeping the local community safe. Many of my assignments are responses to 999 calls so some days I just go from one crisis to another and it can be challenging. If I attend a burglary, although it might be the fifth I’ve responded to that week, it might be the worst thing that’s ever happened to the victim. Compassion makes you want to spend as much time with them as possible. But you also need to be able to prioritise and move on if someone else needs you more. It might sound like a cliché, but knowing you’ve helped someone and having them thank you and tell you they’re glad it was you who came to help, is one of the most satisfying things about the job. I also feel like I help London in a larger, perhaps less obvious way. I’m trained to work at large public events – from sporting tournaments or music festivals to demonstrations. Because of the way we police these events, London can feel safe and carry on with very little disruption – even for huge-scale events such as the Olympics.


The most common reaction I get when I tell people I’m a police officer is one of intrigue – people are interested to know about the different things I do. But some people can be very surprised – usually men who think that because I’m a woman and not particularly tall that it will be a difficult job for me. To be honest, before I joined, I imagined the police force as being a male-dominated environment. But while it’s true there are more men than women, any worries I had that I would be at a disadvantage as a woman were totally unfounded. Yes, there’s banter, but none of it is negative and, in my experience, if you’re good at your job, you have everyone’s respect. In fact, there are a lot of high-ranking women within the Met and certainly in my borough many of the managers are female. I don’t feel like my gender will in any way hold me back.


After my two-year probation period, I will be able to apply for other roles within the Met. I’ve already done attachments with the CID (Criminal Investigation Department), which I really enjoyed, so my plan is to join the trainee detective constable programme. You train on-thejob with detectives, while studying for qualifications at the same time. It will be amazing, though it will mean spending more time behind a desk, so I’m really enjoying being out and about while I can.”

Laura Anne Manuel, 28, is a police constable on the Emergency Response Team at Wandsworth Borough. She tells Stylist what a career in London's police service is really like.

“Sometimes I’m asked what my average day is like on the Emergency Response Team – the section of the police that responds to emergency calls. The truth is, there’s no such thing as an average day – that’s what I love about it. Having said that, shifts usually start the same way. After I cycle to work (it’s important to maintain a reasonable level of fitness for the job, but you don’t have to be a gym obsessive) I’ll have a briefing. After that, anything can happen.


The Emergency Response Team is the first line of communication between the general public and the police so it’s a huge responsibility. If someone reports a burglary, we’re first on the scene. If someone dials 999 because they witness someone being beaten up in the street, we are sent to stop it. If someone calls because they’re in a threatening situation, they’re relying on us to protect them. And even though these are often things I’ve seen and dealt with hundreds of times before, to the caller this might be their only experience of dealing with the police. That’s why it’s important to give my full attention. I’m told I’m a good listener and for me that’s key in all aspects of the job. Being a good listener in the interview room also helps suspects open up. I remember interviewing the suspect of a burglary and I just let him talk and talk. I managed to uncover some other offences as a result.


Some days the call outs are less routine, and there may be a situation when it’s our responsibility to clear the streets and keep the public away from any potential danger. When we’re telling others to stay away from a situation, I’m heading towards it, which might sound daunting, but I have been trained to know how to stay safe. And part of that training is knowing when to step back and recognise when I’m not equipped to deal with a situation and I need the firearms team or a helicopter. That’s as important as knowing when to step up. And armed with the right training, you amaze yourself with what you’re capable of to diffuse threatening situations.


Not every day is fun. I also have to deal with difficult situations – some that are very close to home. The hardest day for me was getting called to the house of a woman with dementia who had reported her son missing. Because of her condition, she didn’t realise her son had been dead for some time. I have a close family member with dementia so I found it very difficult. But when you have a good team around you, which I always have, there are people to support me and sympathise – people to joke with and take my mind off it, and get my head back to where it needs to be.


As cheesy as it sounds, I joined the police because I wanted to make a difference. I grew up in London and wanted to help the city I love. That’s why I think community support is hugely important. It’s about asking what the problems are, rather than waiting for incidents to happen and then reacting. Not everyone has confidence in the police because they only see what isn’t being done, or negative press. But just by being present and becoming a face they recognise rather than a walking uniform, confidence grows and people feel safer. And that’s why I do it. To be able to help and protect people is a very special privilege.”

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