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Women need encouragement to climb ladder in the force

By Deborah McAleese

Published 15/04/2015

Senior PSNI officer Pauline Shields
Senior PSNI officer Pauline Shields

She had once been tipped to become the first female boss of the PSNI.

But while she made history when appointed the force's first female Deputy Chief Constable, Judith Gillespie decided to retire rather than take the assumed natural step to Chief.

Her departure last year has left a void at the very top command level, which no longer has any female representation.

At the time of her retirement Ms Gillespie told the Belfast Telegraph that while there had been a change in attitudes towards female officers, there was "still a bit to go".

"I would like to see an increase in female officers. The organisation has to reflect the community it services," Ms Gillespie said at the time.

She added: "If we don't understand why women are fearful of certain crimes, how they feel when they are the victim of crime... how can we provide a proper, fit-for-purpose, modern, professional, police service?"

Last week another of the PSNI's top female officers, Chief Superintendent Michelle Larmour, announced that she was leaving the organisation to join West Midlands Police as an Assistant Chief Constable.

There are 17 Chief Superintendent posts within the PSNI. Just two are now occupied by females.

Chief Superintendent Barbara Gray, from PSNI's operational support, is the most senior public order trainer in the whole of the UK.

Her colleague, Chief Superintendent Pauline Shields, is area co-ordinator for the south region policing area which includes Armagh, Banbridge and Lurgan.

There are also a number of females at Inspector and Chief Inspector ranks who, with encouragement, could potentially rise to higher ranks, said Policing Board member Jonathan Craig.

"One round of recruitment for an ACC that I took part in, only male officers applied. It is obviously an issue. There are very capable female officers who could rise through the ranks but the Chief Constable must do more to encourage them," the DUP MLA said.

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