... being true to yourself

PC Faye McSweeney was a young twenty-something year old working at a printers in Hackney in the early 1990s when she realised she wasn’t afraid to speak out in an all-male environment; armed with that self-belief, she decided to apply to become a police officer: “I wanted to have a career that would push my limits of my own expectations, and take me out of my comfort zone… I also believed I could make a difference and help people, that it would make me a better person.”

After a number of roles, including on a local response team and in the Territorial Support Group (TSG), she now works within the SCO19 Firearms Command, working on recruiting the next generation of firearms officers.

Why did you decide to become a police officer?

Well I was the only female printer in the industry based in Hackney, and I realised that actually, as much as I enjoyed it, I thought I could do something better. My partner at the time, who’s now my husband, was and still is a serving police officer. He used to tell these stories and I’d think ‘That’s brilliant. I’d love to do something like that.’ So I applied and joined up in 1997.

How do your family feel about you being a police officer?

My family had a meltdown when I joined the TSG (Territorial Support Group), because in their words ‘You’re not big enough and, well, you’re a girl. Why would you want to join the riot police and be the only girl? Don’t you want an office job?” But I loved Public Order and there was no stopping me, not even with their concerns (I still love Public order and still go out on aid as a public order loggist supporting the command team).

What’s the best thing about the job?

I absolutely love the diversity of this job. I can go from dealing with a major event, [like big demonstrations with thousands of people], to running fitness tests for women, to being part of the women’s forum. There’s no other job in the world like it.

What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your current role?

What I love is meeting officers, especially female officers, and changing their perspective of the Firearms Command, MO19. I was at Hendon this week presenting to the recruits about who will be applying to MO19 in years to come. The response I got after was really positive and enthusiastic. I feel like I’m breaking barriers, breaking some of the misconception of what an Armed Response Vehicle officer is and what they look like.

What’s the best bit of advice you would give to any woman thinking of joining? 

It’s probably to know your limitations. Don’t try to be something you’re not. There are no barriers on what you can achieve, everyone’s in it together, everyone’s equal. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman or a man, stay true to yourself and you can make the job your own, while feeling like you’re making a difference wherever you’re based.

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