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City of London Police celebrate women in policing on International Women’s Day

  • All four talk about their careers to-date, what it’s like to work as a woman in a modern police force and the challenges they face.
  • As the proportion of women in senior ranks of Chief Inspector and above has risen in the past five years, we look at their roles in keeping the public safe and cutting crime in modern policing.
Superintendent Helen Isaac
Superintendent Helen Isaac joined the City of London Police in 1997, where she worked as a police constable until 2002 when she was promoted to sergeant and worked in the custody unit. 
In 2004, she took up a role as staff officer for then Commander Frank Armstrong. She describes this as a defining moment of her career, in which the opportunities she was given allowed her to develop a breadth of experience. She was promoted to inspector in 2005 and took up the role of staff officer for Commissioner James Hart. 
Taking maternity leave
Helen then moved into a community policing role and was promoted to chief inspector in 2008 whilst pregnant with her first child. 
She said: “My support network has been fantastic and I am lucky to work in such a close-knit and understanding team. Since having children I have been able to work flexibly, which has allowed me to strike a balance between an often busy and hectic job and raising a family.”
In 2015 Helen was promoted to superintendent and has worked in both community policing and uniformed operations since this time. She is currently responsible for the national roll out of ‘Project Servator’, an innovative policing approach to deterring and detecting criminal and terrorist activity, working with the business and wider community.  
“I would advise those just starting out in their policing careers or wishing to pursue a career in the police to take as many opportunities to do as many things as you can as you may surprise yourself. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, but push the limits and explore new opportunities,” she added. 
Disaster Victim Identification Co-Ordinator, Melissa Dark
Melissa works in the Major Crime Unit, where as a civilian member of staff, she is responsible for the casualty bureaus in the wake of major incidents. A casualty bureau is activated following a major incident and is there to be the first point of contact for those with relating information or concern for anyone involved. These reports will then be matched with the information coming in from hospitals, survivor reception centres and mortuaries. Melissa has coordinated casualty bureaus for the Westminster Bridge attack, the Manchester Arena bombing, the London Bridge attack and the Grenfell Tower fire. 
As with any job, there are good and bad days. Some of the worst days for Melissa involve seeing awful things as they happen and then having to talk to distressed people over the phone. 
She explained: “This is often helped by knowing that I am helping people at a painful time. That and knowing that you can stand down the casualty bureau and that you’ve done the best that you can.” 
Career highlight and advice
Melissa noted being nominated for a Commissioners commendation at a joint London Police ceremony as a personal career highlight for her. 
Melissa’s advice for those in a civilian role in policing, or considering one is to be resilient and ambitious. “If you have a vision of where you want to be and what you want to do, stick by it and everything will fall into place.”
Commander Jane Gyford
Commander Jane Gyford joined the City of London Police in June 2016, as the Head of the Intelligence and Information Directorate. She now has the portfolio of City of London Police Operations and Security.
She has over 25 years policing experience since joining the Metropolitan Police in March 1992 and has served in a number of roles: public protection and safeguarding in local policing, counter terrorism/domestic extremism intelligence, child abuse investigations, proactive anti-corruption investigations and primarily in service within homicide command. 
She has led on many complex murder investigations, is an accredited specialist strategic firearms commander and assesses nationally for the strategic firearms course. 
Policing the 2012 Olympics 
In a previous role within the National Domestic Extremism Unit she led on the Olympic Torch delivery through the UK for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. She was awarded a Commissioner’s Commendation for professionalism, and was awarded leader of 2012 for her role during this event, which she describes as a personal career highlight. 
Jane describes serving the public and being able to make a difference in society as the best thing about her job. “We are fortunate to have such intrinsic values as a nation when it comes to fairness and transparency. This makes my role as a police officer all the more rewarding. Although the constraints around police budgets are frustrating and can affect morale, I believe that every day at work should be a happy day.”
Jane’s advice to those wishing to pursue or further their careers in policing is to map out a career plan and think about what you want to achieve in the long and short term, be it lateral or promotion and not to be deterred if a promotion or interview does not work out. 
“Remember that there’s no such thing as failure. Your time in the police should be positive and enjoyable and the ‘policing family’ environment is a good place to be in.”  
Superintendent Maria Woodall
Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall joined Surrey Police in 1989, where she worked as a police constable for the first nine years of her career. Maria was one of two women who worked in the tactical firearms team in areas such as VIP protection.
Maria qualified as a detective in 1998 and began working as a family liaison officer on murder cases. She was promoted to a sergeant position in 2000 and was moved to the murder squad in 2002. Maria qualified as an inspector in 2007 and worked on high profile cases and murder investigations. Following this, she worked as a temporary superintendent, running the regional undercover team and child abuse online time, before transferring to City of London Police as a superintendent in 2014. 

Current role and advice
Maria was in charge of City of London Police’s fraud teams until October 2017 and she now oversees the force’s professional standards department. 
Maria says the best thing about the profession is the wide range of opportunities available. Although the job can be demanding and pressured, the rewards far outweigh the negatives.
“I see my job and career as a vocation and because of this, I’m ready to give that little bit more for something I feel so passionate about. My advice would be to explore what you’re good at, embrace this and do what makes you happy.” 
The City of London Police values the hard work and dedication of everyone in the force and would like to wish everyone a Happy International Women’s Day.

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