There have been huge strides in female representation, equality and overcoming discrimination in policing – but there’s still work to do.
That’s the view of Annalea Kift, secretary of Gwent Police Federation.
Annalea was speaking on International Women’s Day (8 March) about the changes she’s seen in policing since she joined the Force in 1997.
“Policing has changed in my time,” she said, “My first station had a small minority of female officers, all of whom were part-time and I was the only full-time female on shift.
“I became the first female officer to drive the general purpose vehicle for my section, following a long line of men.
“I remember some talk that the only reason I got the job was that I was a woman. I like to think it was because I was the best candidate for the job.
“Over my career of almost 25 years, I’ve seen numbers of female officers rise in the police service. There’s now only the odd occasion that I’ll be the only female at meeting – but I still think there’s a way to go.
“There’s been a noticeable change, especially in the last 12 months, around violence against women and girls, and tackling sexual harassment in the workplace. There’s a welcome emphasis being put on believing a victim first, as their perspective is their reality.”
Annalea joined the Force when she was 21.
“I left school when I was 16 with aspirations of going to college and university,” she explained, “However life dealt me a different set of cards.
“I left home at 17, had a baby at 18 and, after travelling the world living in Germany and Australia, I returned to Wales and wanted to find a career where I could ultimately get paid and trained to do a very worthwhile job.
“I was astounded when I was accepted as a police officer, mostly because I hadn’t gone on to college and university, but I quickly realised I was made for the job.
“Although at the tender age of 21, I brought the life-time experience of motherhood, living in different cultures and having travelled extensively.”
And she’s vocal in encouraging women considering a career in policing to take the next step and join.
“Do it,” she said, “No matter what your background, life experience, or education, as long as you have a desire to help and a good work ethic we want you with us.
“If you love this job it’s the best job in the world.”
And she also encouraged female officers to get involved in the Federation.
“We’re quite fortunate to have a full Branch Council as of the 2021 election,” she said, “But I’d encourage female officers to get in touch if you’re interested in helping your colleagues through the Federation.
“We can assist you in preparing to nominate yourself for the next election, or where a vacancy arises.”
Reflecting on the biggest achievements of her career, Annalea said it was difficult to single one out.
“I’m a really proud police officer,” she said, “So to nail down my biggest achievement is very difficult as it’s all relative to where I was in my life at the time.
“I’m proud to be elected the Gwent Police Federation secretary and being able to help my colleagues.
“I joined the police to help the public, I joined the Federation to help the members.
“I was also thankful when I finally passed my sergeants’ board – third time lucky. If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again,” she added.