Case study

Designated ward officer — Elizabeth

As a police officer, Elizabeth spends a lot of time out with the community, speaking with people and responding to crime. Find out her top tips for getting a job with the police

What degree did you study?

I studied law at the University of Surrey and graduated in 2017. I then went on to study the Bar Professional Training Course alongside a Masters in Bar Practice at The University of Law, graduating in 2018.

How did you get your job?

I applied for my job through a graduate scheme called Police Now. The scheme focuses on community-based policing and trains officers with a view to helping them make long-term differences in the communities they serve. The application process itself involved an online application, a video interview and an assessment centre.

There were a few further stages as well, such as a fitness and health test, and a vetting stage. Finally, there was a six-week summer academy which provided us with training and skills.

What's a typical working day like?

Depending on the issues in the community I will either be out on high-visibility patrols or may be conducting plain clothes operations. I check in on vulnerable members of the community and act on information received through police intelligence in an effort to reduce crime and make sure that residents are protected.

The nature of community-based policing means that we create ties with other agencies, such as the council and social services, so as to allow us to make a long-term difference in the area. I therefore attend regular multi-agency meetings to discuss pressing issues and seek to resolve these with a multi-agency approach.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

What I enjoy most is being able to help people. I regularly feel like I have small victories in achieving this goal, ones that feel permanent, like helping a man sleeping on a mattress in the Tube gain access to a hostel.

This role ultimately holds a purpose of helping people and that is something which makes me happy to get up and go to work every day.

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenge for me are those instances where it feels like someone cannot be helped. I feel this way most often in cases where suspects are struggling with their mental health.

Managing expectations is another key challenge. Ensuring you treat people with the same respect, while managing their expectations, is a skill I have had to learn quickly.

How is your degree relevant?

Having knowledge of the law and the justice system at large has definitely been beneficial to my role. The practical use of powers in policing is something that I have had to get comfortable with very quickly and I think my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees definitely assisted with this.

Understanding the intricacies and realities of the twenty-first century court system have also helped me make better reasoned judgements in considering and explaining how best I can help people.

The way in which you speak to people certainly has a significant impact on how a situation may play out and so having some experience in advocacy has also definitely helped.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

The more I get to know the community I work with, the better equipped I feel in my responses to incidents and managing issues affecting the community.

I'm extremely happy where I am for now. In the future, however, I would love to move into a proactive detective role, continuing to resolve issues but gaining more knowledge in case progression.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Have patience - the application process is lengthy, and the career itself is competitive. Make sure you allow yourself the time to gain the life experience and skills you need to apply, and then to work in the job.
  • Be prepared to never stop learning - this job is so much more than driving fast cars and chasing bad guys (as fun as that part is). If you approach the job with an attitude of wanting to learn, and wanting to help both your colleagues and others, you'll be off to a good start.
  • You won't know unless you try - now is a great time to apply to the Metropolitan Police Service. If it's something you think you'd enjoy, absolutely go for it.

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