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At the age of 16, whilst at a school careers fair, Sally Benatar had a light bulb moment. It was there, after speaking to two police officers that Sally knew her future lay in policing. Although Sally decided she wanted to travel and went on to study German at university, she made only one job application in her final year… to the Met.
Over the 29 years that followed, Sally has amassed huge experience of policing, including periods spent in Special Branch, Tower Hamlets, Hounslow, leading the Heathrow Airport response team, the Olympics VIP Protection Operation, the Transformation Directorate and, most recently, overseeing policing in Kingston, Merton, Richmond and Wandsworth as the Commander for South West London.
When I joined I found training school was intense and it was hard; but it was designed to be so and there's a very strong team ethos from the moment you start. You're in your class and everybody helps each other.
There was a sergeant who was already doing the job, who was really experienced, who helped me – and she was a female sergeant, Rosemary. So I knew that it was achievable for a woman and that somebody else was already doing it. That's why I think the 100 years centenary is so important, because the women who first joined are pioneers for us. They did it when nobody else had done it and they showed us that it could be done. And then it's just grown from there.
I went on to become the first female officer to be posted to the Prime Minister’s protection team. That was in 1999, as part of Special Branch A Squad Protection. I stayed there until 2006 and during that time I was promoted to Sergeant and then Inspector.
I spent my next five years on the Heathrow Airport Response Team. And over the last seven years I have had four further roles, all leading in to my current role. The great thing about the police is that there are so many different jobs that you can do, so many different career paths.
It means two things to me. I have two daughters and a son, and I think I am a strong role model for them. I want them to know that they can achieve their goals and that there are many fantastic options open to them, as long as they are determined and positive in their outlook.
I’ve taken my daughters to some work events, weekend events; they love to see me in the work environment and they absolutely know that it’s equal roles, equal opportunities in the Met… the things that I’m doing are as open to them as they are to their brother, and I think that’s really important for them to know.
There’s also another meaning for me, personally, which is about being resilient. I have been through a couple of tough, personal challenges over the last couple of years and I’ve come out on the other side a stronger person. Now, when I go through challenges at work I find I can deal with them more confidently.
So for me, personally, strong is about me drawing on my own resilience and using that as the strength to do my job and make a difference in the lives of the officers and staff I lead, and the members of the public we keep safe.
I enjoy the level of responsibility I have at work. I’m responsible for the safety of the 900,000 residents of the four boroughs of South West London. I’m also responsible for leading the 1,300 staff on the South West Command Unit through a challenging time for policing. I’m energised by the knowledge that my leadership and my approach to partnership working can make a difference to community safety.
Mentor for disadvantaged girls.
Recruiting the next generation of firearm officers.
Met's longest serving female police officer.
Safeguarding partnership lead, Islington & Camden.
First female Commander.
The Met’s first black female police officer.
First female CID officer.
Leader of the first women patrols.
First female Commissioner of the Met.
Find out more about careers in the Met and apply.
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