Claire is a Welfare Officer for the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP). Here she shares her experience of working for Defence.
Originally, my ambition was to join the Metropolitan Police but when I applied at the tender age of 19 they felt I needed some ‘life experience’. Feeling very despondent, I visited my sister who was in the Royal Navy in Portsmouth and she suggested I speak with the ‘MOD Plod’ on the gate.
I went along and spoke to a rather portly officer who had a green Army issue gun belt on over a black greatcoat — he looked nothing like my image of a police officer I had seen on ‘The Bill’. Nevertheless, preconceptions aside, the opportunity to serve anywhere in the UK was so unique that I applied for the MDP and, as they say, the rest was history.
My first role was as a Police Constable at Royal Naval Armaments Depot Coulport. At the time I couldn’t drive, so coming from the North West of England I had to take three trains and a bus. I had asked what the dress of the day would be and the recruitment officer, understanding the distance I had to travel, said I should wear something comfortable. After my epic journey I launched myself into a meeting room with nearly 60 other smartly dressed recruits wearing a purple velour tracksuit. Safe to say, many of my fellow trainee officers have never forgotten my entrance some 26 years later.
Currently I am the Welfare Officer for the MDP and provide support to the strategic leadership on Police Officers’ needs. Amongst others, it encompasses disability issues and mental health awareness, and I work closely with HR to identify the barriers preventing officers from attending the workplace for absenteeism and medical capability. I support individuals through formal and informal processes to help them achieve full operational capability, or alternatively, to have a dignified exit from the force if more appropriate in their individual case.
I have been exceptionally privileged to work on many different bases across the UK whilst being exposed to many different policing roles. By far the most challenging was working as an armed counter-terrorism officer in the Government Security Zone in Whitehall, in the aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7. The introduction of new Counter Terrorism Stop & Search laws after 9/11 changed the MDP armed role overnight, with an increased focus on safeguarding the home of government and specifically Defence.
There have been many highs in my career; however, the biggest is my academic achievements. In 2009 I transferred to the Major Incident Unit at MDP HQ to take up the role of Financial Investigator for the team. Due to the privileged and intrusive nature of the role you have to qualify to diploma level in Financial Investigation, completing three courses and several exams. This was very much outside my comfort zone and significantly stretched my abilities as maths was never my strongest subject, and formulae even less so. I overcame my fears, however, and achieved my full accreditation in 2011.
This year I was awarded an MBE for services to Police Welfare in the New Year Honours List. It was an absolute honour to receive recognition for the past 5 years work, and I am immensely proud that it is also a reflection on how the MOD Police has recognised and actively sought to improve issues that impact on the health and wellbeing of its officers.
Being a Police Officer is a vocation, not just a career. It impacts subliminally on all aspects of your life and being in a Force with a difference has been extremely enriching. I am hugely proud of my Force and the role I play in making sure that we continue to evolve to meet the needs of the Defence Community and the wider Policing environment.